Pharmacies can play an important role in controlling illicit trafficking in precursor chemicals that can be used to produce methamphetamine and other addictive drugs, according to an Australian study.
The study, published by the Policing and Society Journal and posted online this month, monitored 620 pharmacies from the Australian States of Queensland and Victoria who sold over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) which is commonly used to battle colds or flu.
The authors of the study, Julianne Webster, Paul Mazerolle, Janet Ransley and Lorraine Mazerolle, asked individual pharmacists to take pro-active steps aimed at deterring possible traffickers. Examples of the steps included: modifying PSE tablet packs and removing them from public view in pharmacies; conversations between possible offenders and pharmacists; and making clear that violators would receive severe and swift punishment by law enforcement authorities.
According to the researchers, the results were impressive. Some 85% of the pharmacists perceived “an overall reduction in the diversion of PSE from pharmacies, and 65% believed that their measures had deterred drug runners from attempting to acquire PSE.
In Australia, domestic production of PSE continues to be a challenge for police. Currently, there is little control on the acquisition of locally available precursor chemicals and drug manufacturing equipment.
The study, entitled “Disrupting Domestic ‘Ice’ Production,” concluded that “Third-Party Policing ” interventions such as the use of pharmacists are worth considering as part of a deterrence strategy, that would result in “increasing the risk of detection of offenders while decreasing opportunities for offending behaviors.”
But it also cautioned that for such a strategy to succeed, specific regulations that support and empower third parties to take preventative action must be enacted, along with more robust partnership between law enforcement authorities and members of the community.
The summary was prepared by TCR intern Davi Hernandez