Kentucky has joined a growing national debate on whether to require a prescription for some cold and allergy medicines in an attempt to eliminate dangerous methamphetamine labs.
At issue is pseudoephedrine, the ingredient in some over-the-counter remedies. Meth "cookers" amass piles of tablets that contain the drug, then convert it to meth in small, homemade labs often fashioned from plastic bottles, using a chemical process that involves toxic substances such as drain cleaner and starter fluid.
The Kentucky Narcotics Officers' Association recently voted in favor of requiring a prescription to get medicine containing pseudoephedrine.
The association is looking for a state lawmaker to sponsor the prescription proposal in the 2010 legislative session, which starts in January, said Stan Salyards, president of the association.
Products containing pseudoephedrine used to require a prescription in the United States, said Salyards, a Louisville Metro Police sergeant.
Requiring a prescription would cut down the number of meth labs in Kentucky, a benefit not only because the labs contain hazardous waste that can threaten the environment and is expensive to clean up, but because the fumes endanger people and can set off explosions, narcotics officers say.
"It's just a matter of time before we have an innocent citizen or a child killed in one of these meth lab fires," Salyards said.
People often cook meth in houses where there are children or in motels, endangering unsuspecting people in other rooms.
There have been more than a dozen people hurt and two killed the last four years in meth lab fires in Kentucky, and more than 250 children found near labs in houses or vehicles, according to a database maintained by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
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