Here in North Carolina we are entering cold and allergy season, which has been estimated to run from October through September.

Beleaguered sufferers have no doubt encountered North Carolina’s law that presupposes they are probably planning to forego treating their stuffy heads and instead go straight into manufacturing methamphetamine.

If you wish to buy an effective decongestant, you buy something with pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed). But to do that you have to surrender your driver’s license to the pharmacist and have your purchase tracked. And then you have to do it all over again in a few short days because the amount the law lets you buy is quite limited.

A Rights & Regulation Update discussed how rogue chemists have stayed ahead of policymakers trying to prevent meth production by restricting things used to produce it. It didn’t use to be pseudoephedrine, by the way.

Turns out the key ingredient to making meth depends on the policies in effect. A quick summary on that point:

  • Originally meth makers used phenyl-2-propanone (P2P), which was restricted in the 1980s.
  • Next they moved over to ephedrine, until the late 1990s when large quantities were restricted.
  • So the next move was to pseudoephedrine, and regulators reacted accordingly.
  • Now meth makers are adopting new methods that require very small amounts of pseudoephedrine and personal “laboratories” so small they can fit (at great personal risk, of course) on the passenger seat of a car, in a purse, etc.
  • They also switched to methylamine and the amino acid phenylalanine.
  • They have also found an increasingly effective substitute: importing it from Mexico.
  • They realized they could circle back around to P2P synthesis, by first manufacturing that from phenylacetic acid, which an article posted for the American Council of Health and Science explained is “used in the perfume industry, and can be bought in huge quantities.”

As the ACHS put it, a side effect of taking pseudoephedrine off the shelves is it made meth production more efficient.

That can’t make Carolina cold and allergy sufferers feel any better about the rather insulting and inconvenient process — that it’s ultimately no more effective than phenylephrine.