CEDAR RAPIDS - Iowa officials say restricting access to ingredients used to make methamphetamine has helped combat the illegal drug, but the fight continues as meth producers find ways around the limits.
"In this business you don't use the word 'solution.' We're mitigating it," Dale Woolery, associate director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy, told The Gazette in Cedar Rapids.
The state began restricting access to pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that's a main ingredient for meth, in 2005. Retailers moved products containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter and limited the amount customers can buy.
"We're trying to make it tougher for people to get their hands on the key ingredient," Woolery said.
Meth lab seizures in Iowa peaked at 1,500 in 2004, but declined to 178 in 2007. Last year, there were 305 seizures, which is an increase from 267 in 2009, according to records from the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy.
This year, 72 meth labs have been seized in the state so far. Dubuque County has the highest number of seizures with 21.
Sheriff's Sgt. Dale Snyder, project director of the Dubuque County Drug Task Force, said labs have gotten smaller since 2005. He said meth producers have adapted to purchase limits on certain medicine, sometimes eliminating the restricted drugs altogether.
Some even trade meth to get more ingredients, he said.
"They're supplying themselves and few other people who go out and buy (pseudoephedrine) pills for them," Snyder said.
The National Precursor Log Exchange, which is funded by the pharmaceutical industry, allows real-time tracking of the sale of meth precursors by pharmacies and law enforcement. The exchange has operated in Iowa since September. Police and retailers in the state have blocked nearly 23,000 illegal attempts to buy pseudoephedrine, denying meth cookers about 125 pounds of the ingredient as of April 30.