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Long weighs in on meth issues

Tennessee is ranked number one in the nation for the production of methamphetamine. 
In 2013, more than 1690 meth labs were seized in Tennessee at a cost of $70 million for clean up.
The number of children removed from homes where meth was being manufactured reached almost 270. 
“We have people being blown up,” Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long told state legislators during the Williamson County Chamber’s Public Affairs Round Table. “It’s about time we became number one in something else.” 
Since 2008, Long has been working with the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association and Sen. Ferrell Haile, a Gallatin pharmacist, developing a bill to reduce the production of meth by limiting the availability of pseudoephedrine—a popular cold and allergy medication and a meth precursor. 
Pseudoephedrin is available in three forms – tablet, gel-cap and liquid. The only form used to make meth is the tablet – each box produces two grams of meth.
According to Long, unlike legislation proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam, which requires a physician’s prescription for all boxes after the second box is purchased, the bill introduced recently by Sen. Ferrell Haile limits the purchase of pseudoephedrin tablets to one box in a 30-day period. 
A second box of tablets may be purchased with a prescription from either a pharmacist or a physician. Prescriptions are registered into a system and may be traced.
“Once you get the second box of tablets, you can’t get anymore for a year,” Long said. “Sen. Ferrell said if you need more than two boxes you need to be examined by a doctor.”
Besides being a dangerous and addicting drug, meth is volatile. Explosions are common, and have killed meth users, innocent children staying at a house or motel and police officers raiding the location, Long said.
“We will never solve the meth problem,” Long said. “We’re trying to stop the production of meth because it is so dangerous and volatile. It’s the explosive power we want to get under control and the exposure to kids.”
According to a Vanderbilt University Medical Center report, 40 percent of their burn unit patients are victims of meth lab explosions. Children who breathe the vapors of poisons from Drano, acid and lithium get blisters on their lungs and suffer other maladies, Long said. 
While states like Mississippi, Missouri and Oregon allow the sale of pseudoephedrin by prescription only, reducing meth labs by 97 percent, Long said he doesn’t want to pursue a stance that could infringe on the rights of law abiding citizens.
“I want something reasonable to the consumer, but I also want to prevent meth makers from buying the precursor to it,” Long told the Herald this week. “There are new items on the market, like Nexafed, that are meth-resistant. They won’t break down to make meth.” Although meth production is high in other Tennessee counties, we are fortunate here in Williamson County, Long added. 
“Two years ago, we found eight labs here; a year ago three or four and last year I don’t think we found any.”
However, he said deputies have caught runners transporting it through the county. 
While the number of meth labs here has been contained by law enforcement, usage remains a problem, Long said. 

Posted on: 2/6/2014


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