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I Hate Meth and You Should Too

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By Dennis Powers

Who could have ever imagined that someone could take a cold medication, break it down and add other chemicals that one would never put in their body and formulate a drug that could ruin their lives and those that come in contact with them?

First of all, who has that much time?

Secondly, why wouldn’t they use their time in a productive manner?  These, of course, are rhetorical questions. Most of these meth “cookers” are a product of our “womb to the tomb” welfare state we have created.

That is one of the major reasons meth production is at epidemic proportions in our area. One of the most frustrating things I have encountered in the legislature is making my fellow legislators realize how desperate the situation really is here.

Recently, I asked a fellow legislator how many meth labs they seized in his rural county last year and he answered “three.” I told him we had three the previous week, which included taking 15 children out of their homes.

The “I Hate Meth” guys have done a great job with their meth awareness campaign. That is why I invited them to the Legislature in Nashville recently to testify before the Health and Human Resources Committee about their experiences and involvement with meth prevention here. They made us proud and I salute their hard work and effort. Jellico is also joining in the movement with their “meth awareness” week.

There were several meth bills that were introduced in the House this Session. They have combined parts of my bill with several others and developed one (HB1051) I co-sponsored that will, hopefully, curb the sales to those who want to use the product illegally, but still make it readily available to those who wish to use the product as it was intended. 

It will also be able to track the purchasers and provides greater penalties for the “cookers” and the “smurfs” or “runners” who for a price, buy the pseudophedrine in the pharmacy and sale it to the cookers. The smurfs usually get paid $50 for a purchase, but after a while, the cookers start paying them with meth instead of money, therefore, extending their customer base.

The main component of the meth bill is the new tracking system to be utilized. By January 1, 2012, each pharmacy in this state shall have in place and operational all equipment necessary to access and use the national precursor log exchange (NPLEx) administered by the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI). The NPLEx system shall be available for access and use free of charge to the pharmacies and the State of Tennessee.

Even though the awareness campaign may make some uncomfortable or feel as though we are “giving our area a bad name,” we can no longer turn our heads or bury them in the sand. The first step to solving any problem is acknowledging that there is a problem. Then, we have to come together as a community to solve it. Our local law enforcement is doing a great job with limited resources.

Recently, funds from the (DEA) Drug Enforcement Agency for meth lab removals were suspended.  

I met with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to request money to help with the disposal of meth labs, but they do not have any funds available either. I have requested money from the state, if any becomes available, to temporarily fill in that gap until assistance is restored from the DEA.

Also, I have co-sponsored a bill (HB1040), sponsored by our State Sen. Ken Yager in the Senate (SB1258), that establishes regulations on “pain clinics” or so-called “pill mills.” 

If passed, a new prerequisite will be established: “A pain management clinic must have a medical director who is a licensed physician or osteopathic physician that practices in this state under an unrestricted and unencumbered license.”

Also, there will be no more “cash and carry” for the pain clinics with this provision: “A pain management clinic may accept only a check, credit card or money order for payment for services provided at the clinic, except that a payment for a co-pay, coinsurance or deductible may be made in cash when the charge for the service will be submitted to the patient's insurance plan for reimbursement.”

Putting an end to meth and prescription drug abuse will not be easy and we have great people out there devoting their time and money trying to help the abusers turn their lives around from that addictive lifestyle.   These drugs are killing our kids and communities.  The government is part of the problem in this scourge and now needs to become part of the solution.

Dennis Powers is the Tennessee State Representative from the 36th House District which includes Campbell and Union Counties.  Please send comments to rep.dennis.powers@capitol.tn.gov.