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D.A.: Alternative drug could aid meth fight

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HUNTSVILLE — Amid news that Tennessee has surpassed Missouri as the U.S.’s top state for methamphetamine production, 8th Judicial District Attorney General Lori Phillips-Jones says that a new alternative to Sudafed could help law enforcement combat the illicit drug.

In a Sunday meeting with the Stand in the Gap coalition, Tennessee state Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, and Kentucky state Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Harlan, Phillips-Jones said that Nexafed could provide an answer in the meth fight.

Sudafed, a popular cold relief drug, contains pseudoephedrine as its active ingredient, which is also the most important ingredient in the meth-making process. Without it, law enforcement officials say, meth would be virtually impossible to make in clandestine labs such as the ones often found in homes, vehicles and discarded in roadside ditches in Scott County and throughout much of rural America.

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While Nexafed contains pseudoephedrine, the drug is more difficult for meth-makers to extract.

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“Once the Nexafed tablets are crushed, it makes more of a gel-type form which cannot be filtered into the form used to make meth,” Phillips-Jones said. “That is why this drug is great — it works the same as Sudafed without being able to make meth out of it.”

Legislative efforts to require a prescription for Sudafed purchases have not gained traction in Nashville. State law currently limits purchases of Sudafed and tracks those purchases in a database, which is often used by law enforcement to combat production of the drug, but Hawk said that is not enough.

“It simply doesn’t work,” Hawk said. “If it did, meth use would have gone down and Tennessee wouldn’t be number two in meth manufacturing in the nation.”

Phillips-Jones said she plans to speak to pharmacies in Scott County and throughout the 8th District about Nexafed next month.

In the meantime, Stand in the Gap — a Christian-based organization in Cumberland Gap, Tenn., formed in 2011 for the purposes of eradicating drug abuse and other problems in the local region — pledged to continue the fight.

“We have to do something; we’re losing our children and grandchildren to drugs,” said Dr. Edwin Robertson, of Harrogate, one of Stand in the Gap’s founders.

Hawk estimated that 90 percent of Tennessee’s crime is tied to drug use, with extra law enforcement and prison capacity to fight the drug battle costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.[/s2If]

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