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Signing a book to save lives

July 07, 2005

Because an ingredient used in over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines can be used to make illegal methamphetamines, West Virginia pharmacy customers with the sniffles will have to sign a logbook, starting this Friday.

It's a small price to pay to keep harmful, illegal drugs off the street.

West Virginia is the latest state to enact such restrictions, even as a national bill works its way through Congress.

Its basis is the knowledge that pseudoephedrine can be extracted from such drugs to produce methamphetamine.

Also known as "crystal meth," the substance is described as an addictive stimulant. It can be smoked, snorted like cocaine, taken orally or injected.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, or NIDA, methampehetamine "releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood and body movement."

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According to the NIDA report, methamphetamine eventually damages brain cells in a way that causes symptoms that resemble those of Parkinson's disease.

And, if you believe this is only a problem for big-city adults, think again.

The NIDA report said that in 2004, 6.2 percent of high school seniors reported "lifetime" use of methamphetamine, which the report defined as "once during a respondent's lifetime."

The same report showed that 5.3 percent of eighth-graders were once-in-a-lifetime users?

How many of those will go on to become regular users, Some certainly will, because NIDA said the drug creates an intense sensation that only lasts a few minutes. To get the same sensation, users increase the dose and frequency of use.

And so what law-enforcement officials face is a highly addictive drug that can be easily manufactured with chemicals that, until now, have been available over the counter at your local drug store.

Remember that the next time your hay fever is acting up and a pharmacist makes you sign the logbook.

This law isn't designed to inconvenience you, but to preserve the lives of young people who don't realize that the thing that makes them feel so good tonight may kill them tomorrow.

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