Cooking illicit "meth" to serve West Virginia's pathetic addicts causes grotesque harm. A study group of police and health officials met in Charleston, and reporter Eric Eyre listed these findings:
• After an illegal meth lab is found in a home, it may cost $17,000 for specialists to cleanse the place to make it safe for human habitation again. All possessions must "go right to the Dumpster." Landlords suffer huge losses when tenants cook the narcotic and taint properties.
• Innocent neighbors, relatives, children, landlords -- even police and paramedics -- become victims of toxic fumes from the criminal labs. Two state troopers were forced to retire because meth pollution gave them lung diseases, and six Kanawha County deputies have been hospitalized by exposure.
• Kanawha was forced to spend heavily for a special truck, equipment and "moon suits" to deal with the menace.
So far this year, the number of meth labs found in West Virginia has doubled. More than 100 have been nabbed in Kanawha County alone. These numbers imply that state crackdown efforts aren't curbing the epidemic.
Criminal cookers send stooges to drug stores to buy over-the-counter cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, then use crude chemical processes to turn the pills into the narcotic methamphetamine.
Some legislators such as former Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, sought to break the illegal operation by requiring doctor prescriptions for the cold remedies. But drug firms -- which reap large profits from remedy sales -- sent high-paid lobbyists to defeat this plan. Instead, the Legislature approved a sales-tracking system that shows little success, so far.
House Health Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, asked new Attorney General Patrick Morrisey -- a former Washington lobbyist for the drug-makers -- to investigate to learn how many cold remedy purchases go straight into meth-making. Some national estimates put the rate as high as 80 percent. But Morrisey refuses to say whether he will inquire.
Mississippi is one state that requires physician prescriptions for pseudoephedrine purchases. During the West Virginia study group meeting, a Mississippi mayor said by conference call that his state's number of meth labs fell from 698 in 2009 to just 85 last year.
We hope legislators pay attention to Mississippi's huge improvement -- while West Virginia plunges the opposite direction.
Here's another possibility: Acura Pharmaceuticals sells pseudoephedrine pills that can't be processed in meth labs. If criminals try, only a worthless gummy gel results. Perhaps West Virginia could limit over-the-counter sales to those safe pills.The meth plague is hurting West Virginia severely. Conscientious leaders should try to reduce the damage.