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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
April 9, 1997


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Wal-Mart have formed a partnership to control large-scale purchases of three key over-the-counter (OTC) products, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, used in the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine and amphetamine.* After meeting with DEA representatives at a national meeting of Wal-Mart pharmacy managers in Kansas City, Missouri, on Jan. 16, 1997, Wal-Mart management moved to restrict sales of these allergy/cold/diet preparations which have been diverted from legitimate use and seized in clandestine labs throughout California, Western, Southwestern and Midwestern States.

According to DEA Administrator Thomas A. Constantine, "Wal-Mart has proven itself a leader in corporate responsibility. It is refreshing to work with Wal-Mart executives who pride themselves upon being ‘a good neighbor’ and voluntarily doing what is right."

Wal-Mart’s Vice-President of Corporate Affairs Jay Allen adds, "Like the customers in our communities, Wal-Mart associates are concerned with the growing issues of drug abuse, as well as the fire and chemical hazards and environmental damage caused by clandestine methamphetamine labs. As a responsible retailer, Wal-Mart is proud to partner with the DEA in supporting efforts to curtail illicit manufacture of methamphetamine in the U.S."

Methamphetamine is quickly becoming the growth drug of the 1990’s. Known on the street as "crank," "ice," and "speed," methamphetamine is a dangerous man-made stimulant that results in the same addiction cycle and physiological trauma associated with crack cocaine. It has been called "poor man’s cocaine" because it is cheaper and provides a longer lasting high than cocaine. In addition, it can be injected, smoked, snorted or taken orally, making it increasingly attractive to casual users and young people.

Methamphetamine and amphetamine are produced in clandestine labs using pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine in the U.S. and Mexico. Although these groups are still involved in the trade, drug trafficking criminal organizations from Mexico have begun to dominate the market in the United States. Traditionally, the suppliers of methamphetamine in the U.S. have been outlaw motorcycle gangs and independent traffickers. Methamphetamine has spread from California and the Southwest to the Midwest and Southeast where clandestine labs have been discovered by law enforcement.

According to Constantine, "Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, is setting an example of community concern by implementing a chain-wide policy limiting the sales of these allergy, cold and diet products. These controls are aimed at drug traffickers. Cold and allergy sufferers, as well as dieters, will not be inconvienced or harmed and should not see any changes in making their purchases in Wal-Mart stores."

Wal-Mart’s current initiative is even stricter than federal regulations stipulated under the second phase of the Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996, which will go into effect on October 3, 1997. These regulations will impose controls on sales of psuedophedrine and phenylpropanolamine products (ephedrine products were controlled under the first phase of the act.) Wal-Mart’s trigger-level is 3-4 times more stringent than the regulations require.

The cash registers in every Wal-Mart, some 2,300 across the country, have been programmed to limit sales to 3-6 packages of these items per customer. In addition, they are discontinuing the 100-count bottle of their ‘Equate’ brand 60 MG pseudoephedrine tablets that have been found at illicit labs, replacing it with smaller blister-packs. Wal-Mart’s initiative also limits the sale of blister packs which will generally be exempt from the new federal regulations. And finally, they are posting signs in all their stores informing customers about Wal-Mart’s cooperation with the DEA.

"Wal-Mart is breaking new ground with this initiative and we hope that other retailers will follow their lead," Constantine concluded.

(*Note: Pseudophedrine and ephedrine are used to manufacture methamphetamine. Phenylpropanolamine is used to produce amphetamine. Although amphetamine abuse is a problem in the United States, methamphetamine abuse is by far the greater problem.)

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