Programs that track the purchase of cold medicine that may be used to make meth is not stopping the meth trade. In fact, it’s creating more criminals.

That’s what the Associated Press found in a recent investigation. The programs are designed to keep individuals from purchasing enough over the counter drugs to make meth. For years, manufacturers sidestepped these laws by recruiting smurfs (sometimes called smurfers). The AP reveals that not only does smurfing increase several years after a tracking system is put in place in a state, but the smurfs have created a sizeable illegal market for legal drugs.

The stricter alternative is to make certain cold medicines prescription-only. But scheduling drugs creates a new set of problems:

Oregon began requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine products in 2006. Mississippi became the second state to do so in July, and Missouri’s governor is asking lawmakers to follow suit in 2011.

If more states do the same, it could be devastating for makers of cold and sinus pills. The pseudoephedrine market is estimated at more than $550 million annually.

Opponents of prescription laws say they punish mostly law-abiding consumers for the crimes of a relative few.

But many law enforcement officials say it’s hard to argue with Oregon’s success. The state had 191 meth incidents in 2005, the year before the prescription-only law. By 2009, it had 12.

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