Consumer Tip

sudafedHaving trouble getting Sudafed? Does your local pharmacy close at night? No problem: all you need is a set of simple step-by-step instructions for synthesizing Sudafed from crystal meth, which is readily available 24 hours a day in most American cities:

Pseudoephedrine, active ingredient of Sudafed®, has long been the most popular nasal decongestant in the United States due to its effectiveness and relatively mild side effects. In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to obtain psuedoephedine in many states because of its use as a precursor for the illegal drug N-methylamphetamine (also known under various names including crystal meth, meth, ice, etc.). While in the past many stores were able to sell pseudoephedrine, new laws in the United States have restricted sales to pharmacies, with the medicine kept behind the counter. The pharmacies require signatures and examination of government issued ID in order to purchase pseudoephedrine. Because the hours of availability of such pharmacies are often limited, it would be of great interest to have a simple synthesis of pseudoephedrine from reagents which can be more readily procured.

A quick search of several neighborhoods of the United States revealed that while pseudoephedrine is difficult to obtain, N-methylamphetamine can be procured at almost any time on short notice and in quantities sufficient for synthesis of useful amounts of the desired material…

We present here a convenient series of transformations using reagents which can be found in most well stocked organic chemistry laboratories to produce psuedoephedrine from N-methylamphetamine.

Full article here.

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36 Responses to “Consumer Tip”


  1. 1 1 Super-Fly

    Now if we can just figure out how to turn weed into birth control pills, we’ll be on easy street!

  2. 2 2 Ken B

    This is brilliant.

    I do hope Candice will chime in that WHAT HAPPENS IN MY SINUSES IS NOT UP FOR DEBATE. IT IS NOT FOR THE GOVERNMENT, NOR MY EMPLOYER, NOR MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO DECIDE. NO ONE, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, HAS A SAY IN MY MEDICAL HEALTH BESIDES MY DOCTOR. (I agree with her.) She will of course want to end the ban on sudafed, and in the spirit of non-interference will object to subsidizing my sudafed.

  3. 3 3 ConnGator

    And of course also end the ban on cocaine and other sinus-related activity.

  4. 4 4 Roger Schlafly

    So is Sudafed any better at clearing up my sinuses than meth?

  5. 5 5 Will A

    What’s wrong with requiring an ID to purchase Pseudoephedrine? I have to have an ID to get on a plane. I have to have an ID to drive a car. I have to have an ID to walk on the sidewalks in Arizona if I want to avoid jail.

  6. 6 6 Ken B

    Will A: I think you only should need real ID for ephedrine and should be able to use a fake ID for pseudoephedrine.

    So much for ‘my sinus my choice’.

  7. 7 7 Will A

    Very good Ken B

  8. 8 8 iceman

    @Will A: Does taking Sudafed make you a threat to others? Your other examples involve that or potential theft of services (that’s not nec. an endorsement of AZ law).

    You just have kind of a nose fetish don’t you :)

  9. 9 9 Ken B

    @iceman:
    Mmmmmmmm. Noses.

  10. 10 10 iceman

    The “impotent nose picker” recalls fondly one Laura Dern.

  11. 11 11 Will A

    @ Ken B:

    You don’t need an ID to take Sudafed, you need an ID to buy Sudafed.

    I think that those who buy Sudafed to make illegal drugs involves a threat to others. If nothing else, living next to a meth house can really lower a person’s property values.

    Some people purchasing Sudafed are illegal manufacturers and some are legitimate users. Therefore we should require an ID to purchase Sudafed to reduce this threat.

    I’ll even buy your point that a Canadian working in Arizona illegally causes a potential threat of service.

    Some people walking on the streets of Arizona are Canadian illegals and others are legitimate walkers.

    Therefore we should stop those on the street who looks like they might be Canadian and jail them if they don’t have an ID.

    This is at least the symmetry that I see.

    I will also submit that it’s possible that requiring an ID for any activity that could cause harm to others or any activity where those who might cause harm might be (e.g. yoga classes) seems extreme.

  12. 12 12 Ken B

    @Will A: I think you have confused me and iceman. I will let him respond therefore. I am pleased to see such progress however; this is the least confused you have been all week.

  13. 13 13 Will A

    Ken B:

    I was responding to your point:
    Does taking Sudafed make you a threat to others? Your other examples involve that or potential theft of services (that’s not nec. an endorsement of AZ law)

    I see a symmetry between requiring an ID to buy Sudafed and requiring a citizen to show an ID when they are walking on the sidewalk.

    On the nose fetish comment, in my testimony (posted comments) I never mentioned anything about my sex life and for you to bring it up and make assumptions is reprehensible and repulsive.

    But I will say that Angelina Jolie’s, Hilary Clinton’s, and Sarah Palin’s noses are things of beauty. Sarah Bachman not so much.

  14. 14 14 Ken B

    Will the bias against beautiful people never end? First there’s the ‘airhead’ stereotype, then the ‘look in a mirror much’ stereotype, and now, NOW, calls for open persecution like this:

    Therefore we should stop those on the street who looks like they might be Canadian and jail them if they don’t have an ID.

  15. 15 15 Ken B

    Will A: I grant you iceman’s point is a good one well-expressed still, so perhaps your confusion is natural. Still, it’s HIS point and i don’t want to poach.

  16. 16 16 Will A

    @ Ken B:

    This is why Arizona had to enact the law. There are a lot of beautiful people in Arizona who are American citizens.

    In North Dakota, it’s sufficient to call the authorities on any beautiful person who applies for a job.

    Prof. Landsburg:

    Last one on this topic. Sorry if you this back and forth noseating.

  17. 17 17 Ken B

    @Will A: *snort*

  18. 18 18 iceman

    @Will A: Sorry for the delay but my pinkie ring got stuck in my nasal passage.

    Question: do you think putting Sudafed behind the counter is more likely to hinder illegal meth manufacturers, or inconvenience (many more) legitimate users? If you answered A, *and* you think this would actually reduce the threat to others (e.g. by making it more expensive / riskier for people to score their meth), then you must consider the war on drugs a big success.

    But now I can’t tell whether your criteria here is in fact a *sufficient* threat to others (who said anything about yoga classes?) If so, I think in this case the “if nothing else” if the best you have. Perhaps we can at least agree it’s not quite the same in degree as your other examples. (BTW I tried to stipulate I was not endorsing the AZ law so we could avoid any nonsense that might ensue – oh well.)

  19. 19 19 Will A

    @ iceman:

    Why can’t putting Sudafed behind a counter both hinder illegal meth manufacture and cause an inconvenience for legitimate users?

    Can you point to an effort designed to prevent a crime that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of those who are innocent?

    My understanding of your point is that requiring an ID to board a plane, an ID to drive a car, and an ID to walk on Arizona sidewalks is valid because they involve threats or potential theft of service.

    My point is that allowing someone to buy Sudafed that can be used to make meth does pose a threat.

    If you want to make the argument that requiring ID’s for an activity should be based on the percentage of legitimate users, then what about airline passengers. What do you think is significantly higher (if any):
    The percentage of Sudafed buyers who make meth.
    The percentage of Airline passengers who attempt to commit terrorist acts with the planes they board.

    As it relates to airline travel, my guess is that baggage searches, metal detectors, random in-depth searches have been more beneficial in reducing terrorists acts.

    I believe that requiring IDs for Sudafed will be as successful if not more successful in reducing meth production as requiring IDs has been in reducing the damage caused by hijacked planes.

  20. 20 20 Will A

    @ iceman:

    Regarding my second point on checking IDs being extreme.

    My guess is that there are a lot of miscreants in the air right now who have no intention of doing anything bad on a plane lest they draw attention to themselves.

    Requiring airlines to check ID’s might help to catch these American Most Wanted. So it might be a good idea to check the IDs for everyone who boards a plane because they might be a criminal.

    In a similar way, there might be escaped convicts in Yoga classes right now who would be caught if only we would require Yoga classes to check IDs.

    My point being that requiring IDs to be checked at a place because someone there might be a criminal seems extreme.

  21. 21 21 iceman

    I honestly don’t care much what we do with Sudafed, but this does strike me as potentially silly because the inconvenience factor seems like it could be fairly high (spread out over many consumers) while IMO the alleged threat *to others* is arguably low. (Some use the term “victimless crime” here.) However I can understand how others who view the war on drugs as a more noble (if futile?) pursuit might see it differently. Or how a bureaucrat drug czar will discount the costs to legitimate users. And I might well change my mind if I thought this was a case where we needed to restrict access to kids. But in terms of your other examples, to me someone driving is a much clearer threat to others (e.g. so an eye test seems appropriate), and I think we agree for airlines the ID probably isn’t a very effective counter-terrorism measure; there the “theft of services” (people taking other people’s seats) seems like the more legitimate rationale. Again I express no opinion on AZ’s laws.

  22. 22 22 iceman

    BTW your preoccupation with yoga makes me wonder if it’s actually more of a foot fetish?

  23. 23 23 nobody.really

    FINALLY — something useful from an economist! News we can use.

    Perhaps Landsburg could tour around spreading this news about reverse-engineering Sudafeds. He could tag-team with the guy who gives the lecture entitled “How I Turned $1 Million in Real Estate into $700 CASH!”

  24. 24 24 Will A

    @ iceman:

    So it looks like we can agree that if someone make the following 3 statements:
    – I have to show an ID to get on a plane.
    – I have to show an ID to drive a car.
    – I should have to show an ID to x.

    They are comparing apples and oranges (fruit fetish) regardless of what x is.

  25. 25 25 Super-Fly

    @Will A

    Because we’ve made Sudafed harder to obtain, we have definitely attenuated the production of methamphetamine… in America. The Mexican cartels, on the other hand, have gigantic production facilities devoted to meth. The Sudafed schemes here have greatly helped them financially and done nothing to stop the consumption here in America.

    In other words, the new restrictions are sending our jobs overseas!! We should repeal them so we can bring those jobs back to Americans. Tell your congressman to Buy Local Meth!

  26. 26 26 Ken B

    Will A makes a point “My point being that requiring IDs to be checked at a place because someone there might be a criminal seems extreme.” Actually it’s a very good point. (There are some places where the cost is probably worth it; attending a presidential dinner or boarding a 747 seem to fit.)

    But Will’s good point applies even more forcefully to buying Sudafed.

  27. 27 27 iceman

    @Will A: not following “regardless of what X is”. I’m sure we could agree on other cases (guns? voting? or u just being ‘cheeky’ again? can never tell with you nose people.) My point was it should depend on weighing costs to legitimate users vs. benefit against illegitimate users. And I submit that bureaucrats tend to devalue the former.

    BTW a pharmacist friend tells me the after-market for painkillers — which actually require a prescription — is quite vibrant. Doesn’t inspire confidence in the effectiveness of Sudafed restrictions.

    I imagine a fruit fetish could be complementary.

  28. 28 28 val

    @superfly: I got the feeling a goodly amount of the lobbying re Sudafed was from the burn units who had to eat the cost of taking care of [usually uninsured] people injured in meth lab fires, so I suppose exporting those jobs is a win?

  29. 29 29 Will A

    @ iceman:

    I think that the majority of places where we require an ID are extreme. People seem to be more acceptable of requiring ID’s in places where there are chances – no matter how small – of micro (gun) or macro (airplane) explosions and/or fairness issues like immigration and voting.

    In fact my guess is that requiring ID’s for any activity is more of a psychological placebo and whatever root problem is trying to be solved can be solved in a much better way than requiring IDs.

  30. 30 30 iceman

    Ahh, I think I get it now…you’re saying ID-ing Sudafed buyers is no SILLIER than thinking airlines will catch terrorists that way. In which case we agree. I think airlines are mainly trying to prevent fraud. Most people probably also understand why a bank teller may ask them for ID.

  31. 31 31 Will A

    @ iceman:

    I don’t need to show my driver’s license or passport to get money from an ATM.

    I don’t need to show my driver’s license of passport to make an on-line money transfer from my bank account.

    I shouldn’t have to show my driver’s license or passport when I visit my bank.

  32. 32 32 Chris C

    @ Will A

    Are you referencing your previous ideology that “ID’s for any activity is more of a psychological placebo and whatever root problem is trying to be solved can be solved in a much better way” in this post (about banks)?

    If so, I would argue that requiring ID at the bank seems to be [one of] the most effective means of curbing fraudulent activity. That is, my debit card info has been hacked/stolen, as have my banking passwords… but I have yet to ever have anyone go to my bank with a fake ID, claim to be myself, and withdrawal funds.

    My personal opinion is that requiring ID for an OTC medicine is quite absurd. An example: A few months back I came down with a mild common cold – no fever, just nasal symptoms. I went to my local CVS in search of a Nyquil PM formula that would help me sleep, and clear my sinuses. I didn’t need acetaminophen/tylenol as I wasn’t suffering from a fever. Turned out that all the nyquil products not containing tylenol rapidly sell out at this CVS. The pharmacist let me know that they almost always sell out of said product, because college students who want to abuse DXM found in cough medicines buy the product without tylenol in the formula. The caveat to the DXM ‘high’ is that in order to ingest enough DXM to produce the desired side effects, one would also be consuming liver toxic quantities of tylenol (if they were to use the formula with tylenol). Consumers of cough medicines containing DXM are also asked to produce ID. Clearly, the ID requirement isn’t curbing abuse. If I were in the business of synthesizing meth, I would simply find associates willing to visit various pharmacies and buy the product for me, producing their own ID at the time of sale. I would imagine that those who produce meth have minimal difficulty finding those willing to buy the raw material, at a minimal premium.

    Similar tactics to those mentioned in the original blog post are also being employed for ADD drugs. Adderall tablets are a rarity these days as a result of the DEA capping the amount drug companies can legally produce.

    I suppose that the best means to solving these problems wouldn’t be through setting ceilings on production, or requiring ID when purchased, but through offering incentives to drug companies to produce medicines with minimal abuse potential, with metabolites that do not produce controlled substances.

    Curious to see where this blog post is headed…

  33. 33 33 Super-Fly

    @val

    In this case, Mexican cartels have a huge comparative advantage in meth production because they can make it in quasi-professional facilities. Meanwhile, our meth producers are now free to do something productive (or at least less explosion-prone). So, yes, this is a bizarre example of why trade between countries is a good thing. (If we ignore the negative externalities for Mexico of having violent gangs everywhere, of course. We could also end the War on Drugs to fix most of those problems, but that’s a topic for another post.)

  34. 34 34 Will A

    @ Chris C:

    What I can tell you is when I go to the Wells Fargo teller now, I swipe my ATM card and enter a PIN. They don’t ask me for an ID.

    I would argue that the following would lead to less identity theft:

    The government changes it’s banking rules so that I’m allowed to go to a bank with $ 2000 cash and open a non-interest bearing account. They assign me an account number, ATM/Debit card (that can only be used at ATMs) on the spot and ask me for security information (user name, password, answers to several security questions, thumb scan, etc.)

    I don’t give the bank any form of identification since they can identify me by my security credentials. This way they can just have a stack of ATM cards and just hand me the next one since the ATM cards would have no names on them.

    I can now deposit money into my account on line using my security credentials (account id, user name, password) like I do now and I can withdraw cash from an ATM using my security credentials (PIN) like I do now.

    There is no reason for the IRS to have my social security tied to this account since it is not interest bearing and would produce no income.

    Here are the advantages that I can see to such an account which would probably allow a bank to charge well for this service:
    If someone runs a credit check on me to find out my accounts, they won’t find this one.

    Since I can only use this card at an ATM, there isn’t a chance for a vendor to make duplicate purchases with my card or for an on-line vendor to steal my information.

    I can access cash when I’m roaming the country without someone being able to pinpoint where I am.

    If the government decided to cut off access to my accounts without due process, I would still have access to cash.

    A hacker that gets bank account information would not be able to get my social security number. Let alone my name.

    I wouldn’t need to carry large sums of cash to anonymously purchase a work of art since I could do a bank to bank electronic transfer.

    I would argue that in today’s day and age giving personal identification to financial institutions is what makes a person more vulnerable to identity theft.

  35. 35 35 andy

    “but I have yet to ever have anyone go to my bank with a fake ID, claim to be myself, and withdrawal funds. ”

    Actually, it does happen. Not exactly withdrawal funds, but they borrow money with your ID. Not nice.

  36. 36 36 iceman

    I’m now sorry I mentioned the banking example (ATMs still generally limit you to $200 at a time (and repeated transactions could be flagged)). But at least I think I understand Will’s position and we largely agree. A blog success story!!

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