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Thumbs Down: State has not solved meth lab problem

Jan. 29, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

West Virginia lawmakers have been talking about the issue of illegal meth making for several years, but it does not appear the problem is going away.

Methamphetamine lab seizures increased 85 percent in West Virginia in 2013, according to West Virginia State Police reports. The Charleston Gazette reported last weekend that authorities seized 533 labs in 2013, compared with 288 in 2012, and the meth-making operations were found in 45 of the state's 55 counties.

Meth is not only a dangerous and highly addictive drug, but the home-grown "labs" -- which can be set up almost anywhere -- cause fires, explosions and costly clean-ups.

While Kanawha County had the most seizures with 159, there were 20 in Cabell County, 21 in Mason County and 28 in Putnam County. So, the problem continues to spread around the state.

A key ingredient for the drug comes from pseudoephedrine cold medications, which are available behind the counter in many drug stores across the state. In 2012, the state passed a law to require electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine sales and limiting purchases, but clearly much of the product still is falling into the hands of meth makers.

Some legislators have proposed requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine products in hopes of limiting access, but others feel that would put too much of a hardship on law-abiding customers who have a legitimate need for the products. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry has developed pseudoephedrine products that are not easily converted for meth production.

Whether it is tougher restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales or wider distribution of "tamper-resistant" products, the growth of the problem shows more needs to be done.

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