At the height of the methamphetamine epidemic, several states adopted electronic systems that could track sales of the cold medicine used to make meth. An Associated Press analysis of federal data reveals that the practice has not only failed to curb the meth trade, which is growing again, but it also created a lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup.
The lure of such easy money has drawn thousands of new people into the methamphetamine underworld. “It's almost like a sub-criminal culture,” said Drug Enforcement Administration agent Gary Boggs. “You'll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They'll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit.” Brokers can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50. Meth-related activity is on the rise again nationally, up 34 percent in 2009; that number includes arrests, seizures of the drug and the discovery of abandoned meth-production sites.