“Don’t break bad, now,” the 30-something pharmacist at my local Walgreens said to me after handing me a 12-dose box of Claritin-D. He had determined, after a mini-background check, that I was not a meth cooker.
All this ado, according to said pharmacist, is a reaction to the popularity and the press surrounding the AMC television series, “Breaking Bad,” about a down-on-all-luck chemistry teacher who crosses the line to methamphetamine (meth) kingpin.
It’s because of the D-part in Claritin-D, which stands for psuedoephedrine, a component of methamphetamine, which, when broken down, cooked, and then snorted or smoked (or when downing a whole 12-dose box of Claritin-D at once), produces a brain-stimulating, euphoric rush that will probably help you forget that you have a runny nose.
So Claritin-D, and all decongestants with psuedoephedrine are no longer over-the-counter, and are illegal to buy if you are under 18, or if you are over 18, and do not have a valid drivers license.
This system required me to take a card from the shelf, hand it over to the pharmacist behind the counter, and wait for the rundown on my background before I was handed the goods.
Claritin has been a newsmaker before. It wasn’t that long ago – 2002 – that Claritin won approval to be sold over the counter without a prescription. The decided culprit then was not an ingredient (no psuedoephedrine then, just loratadine), but instead, a cocktail of questionable conduct – the lengthy and arcane F.D.A. approval-process, the effectiveness and the cost of the newly-available Claritin, and the purported greed of Schering-Plough- the pharmaceutical company that developed Claritin.
So I’m all for consumer safety; awareness. We all need to be watchdogs. But my encounter with this latest keep-the-goods-from-the-bad-guys, and keep-the-public-safe tactic seems a bit short-sighted, certainly not foolproof, and just plain silly. I can confirm the pharmacy’s findings that I am not a meth cooker. But how do they know, given that I wasn’t buying Claritin-D for myself, but picking it up for someone else (the pharmacist didn’t ask), that I’m not a mule? Or a huckleberry.