Drug task force scores a victory against meth
While there’s no end in sight in the war on drug abuse, we were pleased to see the a report from the Alabama Drug Abuse Task Force showing some progress is being made in the fight against methamphetamine in our state.

We’re especially proud to note that two members of the Task Force are from our area.

Louis Zook, law enforcement coordinator for the State Attorney General’s office, is the former chief of the Sylacauga Police Department. Barry Matson, deputy director of prosecution services, previously worked as assistant district attorney in Talladega.

Their report cited a 63 percent decrease in the number of meth lab cases in the state.

In the report, the Task Force highlights the use of the real-time NPLEx tracking system and restrictions on the sale of non-prescription cold and allergy medications containing PSE/ephedrine. The ingredient is an effective component in those medications, and can also be used in producing methamphetamine in small labs.

Medications containing PSE/ephedrine are now kept behind the counters in pharmacies in Alabama and the 19 other states participating in the NPLEx system. Customers must request the medication and provide a government issued photographic identification at the time of purchase, which is scanned into the NPLEx database. The pharmacy is advised to deny the sale if the purchaser exceeds the statutory limit of 3.6 grams per day or 7.5 grams in 30 days.

Last year in Alabama, the sales of 93,881 boxes were blocked. In the reporting months of 2013, Talladega County was listed in the top ten counties in the state for blocked sales, with 2,750 grams blocked, and 17,441 sold.

Statewide, the number of boxes of medicine blocked from sale increased almost a third from the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013 when the sales of 28,508 were blocked.

More than 37,000 retailers are participating in the system. Some national retailers are even reporting sales to NPLEx in states that don’t require its use. That helps prevent users from crossing state lines in attempts to acquire a sufficient quantity of the drugs to produce methamphetamine.

That won’t completely stop the abuse of meth, but it can certainly help.

The manufacturing and abuse of the drug has had a dangerous and expensive impact on the state. Innocent people have been hurt, families have been devastated, and it has cost the state millions in prevention efforts, enforcement, and the clean-up of contaminated properties.

The manufacturing process itself can be deadly and can leave behind long-lasting harmful residues in homes, hotel rooms and other property.

Its use can lead to malnutrition, skin disorders, ulcers, lung and heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases. Frequent use can result in mental illness, suicide and violent death. Effects can include agitation and paranoid states that make users potentially dangerous to themselves and others.

The state law and the NPLEx system won’t stop meth use or production by themselves. Authorities acknowledge that most of what’s sold on the street is manufactured in other countries and smuggled in. But the numbers cited in the report indicate progress has been made, and we’re proud to see two of our own involved in the fight.

The Task Force has much work left to do, not only against meth, but also against the use of other harmful drugs. Jefferson County lost 57 lives to heroin overdoses last year. The abuse of prescription drugs continues, new synthetic drugs are appearing, and cocaine and marijuana are ever present.

We commend the task force members on their work, and wish them well in their efforts to cut the supply and curb the demand. The goal is a safer, healthier and more prosperous society, and that’s well worth the fight.

© 2013