A new chemical tool to combat illegal production of methamphetamine nationwide was announced October 9 at a press conference on the steps of the Iowa State Capitol in
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack says
"As co-chair of the House Meth Caucus, I've spoken with lots of experts on the drug problem," says Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell. "This discovery has great potential for reducing meth production across the
Good news for farmers too
"We need anhydrous ammonia fertilizer available for corn production," says Boswell. "Banning or restricting the availability of anhydrous ammonia to farmers isn't an option. This remarkable work by these ISU chemists in coming up with this compound is good news for farmers too."
Use of the new inhibitor will be on a voluntary basis for fertilizer dealers in
"Drug enforcement agencies and officials in other states have already contacted us about this new additive, and it will be used in other states in addition to
Added to anhydrous nurse tanks
The ISU research, confirmed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's forensics lab, found that people who cook meth who use untreated anhydrous ammonia typically get a 42% yield of pseudoephedrine for conversion to meth. However, that yield drops to 2% or less when the calcium nitrate inhibitor is added to the ammonia in a nurse tank.
Anhydrous ammonia is used in one of two primary meth production methods, and is the method of choice in agricultural states where anhydrous is commonly used as a fertilizer. In
"Despite a 77% drop in
Proven to work in
"This compound when used as a meth inhibitor has already proven effective in field tests at three
He adds, "In each case where we've tested it at fertilizer dealerships or co-ops where nurse tanks are parked, the meth cooks have abandoned the treated anhydrous ammonia. They don't fool around trying to steal from the nurse tanks that have the treated ammonia in them."
In recent years, meth cooks have been breaking into fertilizer dealerships or stealing anhydrous ammonia from parked nurse tanks in fields-dangerous not only for the thieves but also for the community. Thieves often can't get the tanks shut off or they break a valve and a toxic and potentially lethal anhydrous ammonia cloud develops over the community. Recently in eastern
This was a 6-year research effort
Professor George Kraus is the ISU chemist who led the 6-year research effort to find a workable compound. "We tested a lot of compounds," says Kraus. "The chemical reaction between anhydrous ammonia and calcium nitrate also means more is less. Because the meth cooks who try using more of the treated anhydrous ammonia to defeat the inhibitor will actually produce even less meth."
Money for the ISU research to develop the meth inhibitor compound came from federal funds secured by
Harkin, who was present and spoke at the press conference, says this compound will help. But it isn't the total answer in the battle against the illicit drug methamphetamine. He pointed out that a large portion of the meth entering Iowa today is coming from Mexico.
Not total answer, but is big step
"Ten years ago most of the methamphetamine distributed in
"Together with rigorous enforcement efforts, anhydrous ammonia tank locks and strong regulatory controls on the key meth ingredient—pseudoephedrine—the calcium nitrate meth inhibitor is one more powerful tool to help cut illegal meth production," says Harkin. "The message for would-be meth cooks where the meth inhibitor is used in the anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks is 'Don't Bother.'"