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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Data from Indiana State Police shows a dramatic drop in methamphetamine lab busts in the nearly two years since legislators made one of the drug’s key ingredients harder to buy.


Once dubbed the meth capitol of the United States, Indiana has long battled a stigma with methamphetamine. Lawmakers started restricting the amount of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine that customers can purchase in stores in 2013—both drugs are common ingredients in cold medicine and a key ingredient in methamphetamine.


Then in March 2016, then-governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law giving pharmacists greater discretion over who can purchase pseudoephedrine.


The law was meant to curb methamphetamine production by making pseudoephedrine harder to purchase. It gives pharmacists discretion over who to sell to, limiting the quantities of medicines like Sudafed to patients without a prescription and without symptoms. It also allows pharmacists to check customers against a drug offender registry.


“We decided to attack these people in their pocketbooks,” said Indiana Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-District 52), “so we just made the pseudoephedrine more expensive, made it much harder for them to afford to be able to make methamphetamine.”


Rep. Smaltz said he was motivated to get behind the legislation to combat meth related crime and protect the shocking number of children found in meth lab environments.


“So the numbers have been dramatically reduced,” Smaltz added. Data recently released by the Indiana State Police show noticeable drops in the number of clandestine meth lab busts and the number of children identified in dangerous meth lab environments since the legislation went into effect.



2017: 371 clandestine labs seized

2016: 943 clandestine labs seized

2015: 1452 clandestine labs seized

=  74.45% drop from 2015-2017



2017: 49 children identified

2016: 153 children identified

2015: 291 children identified

= 83.16% drop 2015-2017



  • 87% One pot
  • 9% Birch Reduction (Nazi)
  • 1% Red Phosphorus
  • 3% Unknown

“The real motivation for me was I had a group of people from Fulton County, in my district, institute this policy with the pharmacies there,” said Indiana Senator Randy Head (R-District 18). According to Head they then collected data to present to him and other law makers which showed a marked decrease in meth lab busts when the cold medicines became harder to obtain.


“First at Walmart people would line up to buy the maximum amount of pseudoephedrine that was on the shelf and they would buy it all and text all their friends and buy it until it was out. And they weren’t buying Kleenex, they didn’t have colds,” Sen. Head explained, “as soon as it got put behind the counter, those things stopped.”


The so-called war against drugs is far from over. Despite the drop in clandestine meth lab busts, law makers say they’re seeing more trafficked methamphetamine.


“You put bars on the door, they’ll come to the windows. We’re going to fix the windows and as long as we here to try to make it better to fight the broader spectrum of drug crime,” said Smaltz.