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FEBUARY 2007

Stopping Meth Addiction Cold
Illinois law enforcement finding new ways to fight a deadly rural drug war
By Denise Guttery

The production and abuse of methamphetamines (meth) in Illinois poses an increasing threat to the state and its citizens. Meth is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that can be injected, snorted, smoked or ingested orally. It is easily produced in illegal laboratories or meth labs using a variety of ingredients available in any pharmacy.

Meth labs can be very dangerous due to the volatile and toxic chemicals and by-products used. The danger of a meth lab not only lies in the hands of the person making meth, but also the community in which the lab is located.

Awareness of the dangerous affects of meth production and use is spreading through laws, training and education, youth-led curriculum and Web site creation, as well as a new media campaign. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Governor Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin are working to minimize the threat meth has on rural areas.

Madigan’s office initiated the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act, which took effect Sept. 11, 2005. The Act consolidates and strengthens criminal laws against meth production, distribution and use and, as a result, gives prosecutors additional tools to go after meth makers who tamper with anhydrous ammonia tanks.

“The Meth Control and Community Protection Act gives our state’s law enforcement agencies additional tools to fight the illegal and dangerous activities that occur during the manufacture of meth,” says Steven Mange, Senior Policy Advisor for the Attorney General. “Because the production of meth in Illinois causes as much harm as the use of this deadly drug, it was and is important that we continue to tighten the net around criminals who participate in all stages of the meth chain: manufacture, delivery and abuse.”

Madigan’s office also initiated the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act that went into effect in Jan. 2006. The act imposes stricter controls on the display and sale of cold and sinus products containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making meth. For the past year, to purchase cold and sinus medications such as Sudafed or Tylenol Cold, you have to be 18 or older and can get no more than two packages at a time from a pharmacy employee.

Mange says, “As compliance with the restrictions on sales of meth precursors has increased, the number of meth labs in Illinois has dropped. For example, the number of meth labs seized by the Illinois State Police fell by nearly half (47 percent) during the third quarter of 2006, when 136 labs were seized, compared to the third quarter of 2005, when 257 labs were seized. Law enforcement authorities also report a drop in the size of the average meth lab, as meth cooks struggle to obtain sufficient quantities of pseudoephedrine.”

Madigan’s office has also trained more than 1,000 law enforcement officers and prosecutors during 2005 and 2006 on the investigation and prosecution of Illinois meth cases.

An innovative youth-led prevention curriculum and a Web site that provides meth-related information (www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov/methnet) was also created to help spread the word about the dangers of meth.

Businesses in Illinois are also taking steps to prevent the production of meth.

In December 2006, Blagojevich awarded 35 fertilizer dealers nearly $140,000 in grants to assist in preventing the theft of anhydrous ammonia, which is also used in the production of meth. The funds will allow agrichemical dealers to be reimbursed for up to two-thirds of the cost of their security improvements; such as lighting, video surveillance or tamper-proof locks on anhydrous ammonia tanks.

“Methamphetamine is one of the fastest growing and most addictive drugs, especially in downstate communities. It ravages users, families and households and neighborhoods where it’s made and sold. These grants will help keep a key ingredient to making meth out of the hands of manufacturers,” Blagojevich says.

To promote awareness and prevention of meth abuse throughout southern and central Illinois, a partnership between Durbin, the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Broadcasters Association was created.

More than 200 billboards will be covering southern and central Illinois to spread meth awareness and prevention. The campaign will also use TV and radio commercials.

Durbin asked the University of Illinois to gather and analyze data on how meth is affecting Illinois and ways to fight back. The data suggest that most meth victims are white adults living in rural areas. Most of the people affected by meth are poor and have less education than the average Illinois citizen. In 2004, more than half of the children entering foster care in some areas of rural southeastern Illinois were forced into the program because their caretakers were meth users.

“The University of Illinois report speaks to the role of media and the value of a growing community awareness in turning the tide against meth use. The goal of this ad campaign is to make sure our communities know that this is happening – right here in Illinois. We know that awareness campaigns can help shape attitudes and spark conversations. These are not quiet ads. Our hope is that these ads will make people think,” Durbin says.

Durbin stated that before we can work together to protect our communities from the damaging effects of meth addiction, we have to recognize that there is a problem – and that everyone needs to be part of the solution.

Under the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act:

•All cold and sinus products containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), except small convenience packages, must be kept behind pharmacy counters.

•When purchasing a PSE product, a consumer does not need a prescription but must show identification and sign a confidential log.

•Without a prescription for a greater amount, a consumer may purchase no more than two packages of PSE in a single retail transaction or more than 7500 milligrams of PSE in a 30-day period. (7500 milligrams exceeds the maximum amount of PSE an adult may take in a month.)

•Away from pharmacy counters, a consumer may purchase one convenience package of up to 360 milligrams of PSE in liquid or liquid-filled capsule form in a 24-hour period. (360 milligrams is the maximum amount of PSE an adult may take in a day.)

•A consumer with a prescription for PSE is not subject to the quantity limits stated above.

For more information
For more information on meth in Illinois, visit
The Attorney General’s Web site at: www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov/methnet.