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Illinois tightens restrictions on cold and allergy drugs

Some common allergy medications contain base ingredients that are required to produce methamphetamine.

Politicians and law enforcement officials in Illinois are acting swiftly to implement a tracking mechanism for drugs containing a prominent component of methamphetamine after a pilot program in some parts of the state led helped police shut down more than 150 meth labs.

As part of the new law, signed by Governor Pat Quinn last week, pharmacies are required to forward the names and addresses of individuals who purchase excessive amounts of drugs containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine to a state police database. These chemicals are typically found in nasal decongestants, but they can be extracted to create meth.

The law also empowers pharmacies to block sales of drugs containing pseudoephedrine if an individual tries to purchase more than 7.5 grams of a particular medication during a single month. Supporters of the law argue that it is part of a comprehensive effort to combat drug use in the state, which includes weaning drug users off of their addictions.

"If you don't treat these people, they don't go away," the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association's Sara Howe told The Associated Press. "They show up in your hospitals and prisons. The cheapest option is to prevent addiction before it starts."

Illinois is one of 41 states that currently require drugs containing pseudoephedrine to be sold "behind-the-counter" so that pharmacies can track purchases of these medications. Two of states, Oregon and Mississippi, have mandated that these drugs be sold only with a doctor's prescription, which has significantly reduced the presence of meth labs in both states.

Opponents of these laws in other states have argued that they unnecessarily complicate the treatment process for allergy sufferers by forcing both doctors and patients to make time for a formal appointment. Illinois residents who often suffer from allergies or cold symptoms may want to seek out medications that do not contain pseudoephedrine.

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