In our family's weeklong bout with the flu, we used up most of the medications we had, so today, even though I'm still not completely recovered, I drove over to Wal-Mart so I could restock.
It shouldn't come as any surprise that different family members have their favorite brands when it comes to relieving cold/flu symptoms. My wife prefers a combination: Tylenol for aches and fever, Robitussin DM for cough and chest congestion, and Benadryl-D for head congestion and runny nose. Not being a really patient guy on matters like this, I prefer a one-shot deal that covers all of these areas: Vicks 44M.
At Wal-Mart I grabbed another bottle of 44M and two boxes of Benadryl-D (my wife has persistent allergies, so she goes through a box of Benadryl pretty quickly even in the absence of the flu). At the register, however, I was told that I was limited to two items containing pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in Sudafed).
This restriction, of course, is a reaction to the fact that pseudoephedrine is used in the production of methamphetamines, the abuse of which is a growing problem. (Aside: According to the article linked in this paragraph, the pseudoephedrine must come in tablet form in order for it to be extracted for meth production -- a fact which Wal-Mart does not take into account when including liquid Vicks 44M in the restrictions).
So why am I complaining? Why not accept a little inconvenience if it will foil attempts to buy pseudoephedrine in sufficient quantities to allow meth production?
Well, for starters, policies like Wal-Mart's do virtually nothing to prevent such purchases by drug abusers. Anybody clever enough to set up a meth lab is also clever enough to know that Wal-Mart can't prevent someone from taking a few friends along, using multiple checkout lines to make the necessary purchases. If I had desired, I could have put my bags in the car, gone back in, and bought two more packages without running afoul of Wal-Mart's safeguards.
I don't mean to pick on Wal-Mart; many store chains have similar restrictions. My point is that such restrictions are a Maginot Line in the war against drug abuse. Stores can brag that they're Doing Something About It, when all they're really doing is being a pain to people who have no intention of abusing these products.