AUGUSTA — Just
in time for cold and flu season, common
medications containing pseudoephedrine — from
Sudafed to Tylenol Flu — are being taken off
store shelves and put behind pharmacy counters
to prevent their use in the illegal manufacture
of a highly addictive stimulant.
The new state
law making it tougher to buy products containing
pseudoephedrine goes into effect Nov. 1. It is
designed to prevent a methamphetamine addiction
problem that has not hit Maine, but has reached
epidemic proportions in other rural and
Recognized Expert To
Speak on Meth
Follows Oct. 20 Presentation
— Nationally recognized authority on
drug abuse Carol Falkowski will speak on
Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Ellsworth High
to the public, the event is the second
annual James Russell Wiggins lecture,
sponsored by The Ellsworth American.
Director of research communications at
Minnesota’s Hazelden Foundation,
Falkowski has monitored drug abuse
trends for 20 years. She is the author
of “Dangerous Drugs: An Easy-to-Use
Reference for Parents and
She produced two documentaries in
partnership with the PBS affiliate Twin
Cities Public Television about
methamphetamine addiction and the
challenges it presents for law
enforcement, communities and treatment
“Meth has been entrenched in certain
parts of this country for two decades,”
said Falkowski. “It has changed the
landscape in both rural and urban
America in the West and the Midwest.”
The nature of the drug is such that
those who feel they have too much to do
and too little time to do it are
attracted to it, she said.
Falkowski makes frequent presentations
to professional and community audiences
around the country. She has appeared on
“The Today Show,” “CNN Live,” NPR’s
“Talk of the Nation” and in many
newspapers including USA Today and The
New York Times.
Falkowski’s participation in this second
annual Wiggins lecture, is especially
fitting as she is the granddaughter of
James Russell Wiggins, longtime editor
and publisher of The American.
The event will get underway at 7 p.m.
with Falkowski’s presentation, followed
by a roundtable discussion in which
Falkowski will be joined by four Hancock
County leaders, long experienced in the
field of drug abuse: District Court
Judge Bernard Staples, District Attorney
Michael Povich, Open Door Recovery
Center Executive Director Barbara Royal
and Gary Higgins, supervisory special
agent from the Maine Drug Enforcement
Questions from the audience will be
welcome during the evening.
Information: Alan Baker, 667-2576.
8pt Verdana Bold All-Caps
chains, such as Wal-Mart and Rite Aid, already
have taken the drugs off their shelves in Maine,
having gone through the drill in other states
with similar laws.
Cards now are
on shelves where products used to be, directing
customers to the pharmacy.
regional stores, including the state’s most
popular grocery chains, are dealing with the
change. Smaller stores may have to stop carrying
some products simply because of the space crunch
behind the counter.
pharmacy will control the sale, prescriptions
are not required.
targets solid tablets containing pseudoephedrine
used to make methamphetamine, or “meth” for
short, in makeshift labs. Liquid cold
medications and gel caps will not be regulated.
visible change to consumers is some of the
products they were used to seeing on the drug
store shelves or on grocery store shelves or
department store shelves will only be available
in the pharmacy,” said Chuck Dow of the state
Attorney General’s office.
where there is no pharmacy, the only
pseudoephedrine tablets that will be available
will be in single-dose foil packages that will
be available in sight of the store clerk. The
law limits the sale of the foil packages to
three per customer.
The law also
limits the amount of tablets that can be
purchased at one time even from behind the
pharmacy counter to three packages of no more
than three grams each. Possession of more than
nine grams of the tablets will be a crime under
the new law.
following the lead of other states to crack down
on homemade meth, which is feeding a growing
addiction problem, particularly in the Midwest
methamphetamine has been around for decades —
once prescribed for everything from obesity to
depression — the homemade stuff scares law
enforcement officials because it can become so
readily available using common household
products, including the pseudoephedrine in cold
Not only is
meth easily available in any part of the country
through this homemade method, the labs also are
prone to blowing up and the production leaves
behind harmful chemical residues.
director of the Office of Substance Abuse, said
the number of meth abuse cases is still very low
in Maine, but now is the time to stop the
“We have low
numbers” in terms of actual abuse cases and
homemade labs but the percentage increase is
growing, she said.
“The point is
this,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing a slight
increase that to me indicates the potential for
the beginning of the problem. If we had
identified that and acted in 1997 for
prescription narcotics, we wouldn’t have the
size of the problem that we have now.”
addicts look “old and jittery,” and can have
psychotic episodes that make them dangerous.
“It ages you
enormously,” she said of the drug, which is a
powerful stimulant that keeps its users awake
and agitated. “A 20-year-old can look like
they’re 45 after six months of use,” she said,
“and the effect on your brain is enormous. It
can make you psychotic and paranoid.”
is not as restrictive as those in some other
states, where pharmacists are required to keep a
log of who buys the cold medications containing
pseudoephedrine. If, however, the meth problem
becomes worse and “poses a threat to public
health,” the law does allow the director of the
Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to require logs.
office will be training pharmacists and clerks
to identify the signs of meth addiction, with
the hope they will contact police if suspicious
persons attempt to purchase the cold
Maine law protects pharmacists and clerks from
civil lawsuits if “someone calls and says ‘I
think we have a meth addict on our floor,’ and
the police bust the person,” but the charges