Posted by John Marr

The irony of a cautionary message being delivered by our guest speaker Kathleen Summers-Grice, being accentuated, interrupted and eventually concluded by the Clarion alarm, couldn’t have been orchestrated any better. Lest the message was insufficiently promoted, given the interruption and storm depleted attendance. The bottom-line, simply stated, is the migration of the toxic stimulant methamphetamine is making its way south from Washington County and taking over Cumberland and York Counties. Of late, much of our attention is concentrated on containing the proliferation of heroin/opiate drugs and reducing the associated death statistics. As if the opiate tragedy is not enough of a fright, we now must be just as vigilant of the methamphetamine re-emergence. Meth addiction has shrunken from the public consciousness shadowed by the painful death count associated with tainted, high- powered heroin. It is not a stretch to say that we are fighting a two-pronged world war that demands a high intensity, well balanced attack if we have any chance of gaining some degree of control over our worldwide, powerful and well financed enemy.

Ms Grice is the principal of Eaton River Strategies, a consultant and public affairs firm, and has been contracted by the Consumer Healthcare Product Association. As the Association title suggests, they are interested in the retail distribution of common health care products, such as pseudoephedrine based cold medicines. The masses assume that the ingredients of over the counter medications are perfectly safe, if taken as instructed. However, there are certain components which can be repurposed to create distinctly different new products. The hallmark of the described re-formulation is methamphetamine, aka speed, crystal or just meth, derived from your common Sudafed cold medicine. Despite the infamy methamphetamine, it continues to be a scourge that captures too many. Given the popularity of the TV series, “Breaking Bad,” one might think that just about everyone is familiar with the power and implications of this high-powered stimulant. Nobody starts out thinking “today I want to get hooked on meth.”  However, the allure of the drug as an energy enhancer is captivating. It seems that meth has a particularly powerful, if not unique, brain influence that hastens the likelihood of addiction and makes recovery a long and painful exercise.

The rate of addiction, long ago, caught the attention of the authorities and they began to crack down by trying to dry up the primary source of home cooked meth, i.e. the pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines. The drug manufacturers did not want the dispensing of such cold medicine to require a doctor’s prescription, so they worked with the Federal authorities to find a reasonable compromise. The compromise was to require that these cold meds be kept behind the pharmacist counter and to be signed for and tracked, to prevent the practice of purchasing multiple packages of the drug to distill into meth. The purchase of multiple packages for drug making purposes is called “smurfing” and those who make the buys are called smurfs and pick up cash for making the buys. The stipends for “smurfing” are relatively small in comparison to the big bucks the providers make, but are enough to get unknowing accomplices into the procurement process. When a young person of legal age is asked if they would like to “make a few bucks” by making a simple buy of a legal medication, they think nothing of it. The kids are not the only ones duped. Our speaker told of us of a middle aged, well educated friend who was asked by her son, who was studying overseas, to bring him some of his preferred cold medicine she thought nothing of it. When she went to the local pharmacy and asked for 10 packages of the cold medicine, she was alerted by the pharmacist that she ran the risk of going on the list sent to the Feds and could be incarcerated and fined.

While much of the methamphetamine illegally distributed in the U.S. comes from organized crime outside our borders, it still is cooked locally and requires “smurfing” in order to be successful. The manufacturing techniques, sad to say, are readily available on-line. The meth labs are danger zones and prone to fire and the toxic chemicals are easily transferred and can contaminate an entire home requiring thousands of dollars in remediation to make the building habitable. The residue of a meth cook is significantly troublesome to the public safety agencies in the area. It is so bad in some areas of the state that workers are told to avoid picking up Mountain Dew bottles since it is a tool of choice of makeshift labs. The simple lesson Ms. Grice is delivering is that smurfs may be cute, but Smurfing is a criminal activity and you will be prosecuted, so don’t buy more than your immediate personal needs.



(Photo L-R: Mike Fortunato, Kathie Summers-Grice, President John Curran and Matt Wolcott.)