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The Federal Department of Sinus Headache Approvals

Published January 16. 2010 09:00AM

Did you know that buying a simple sinus pill has become a complicated process?

It's been that way for a few years now. But I didn't fully appreciate the rigamarole until the recent arctic blast blew in.

Last Sunday I woke up with a sinus headache that measured 99.5 on the Richter scale.

I needed a pharmacy real fast and so I drove to the nearest Wally World.

There, I found a common sinus medicine product that's been advertised heavily. I won't mention the name, but let's just say it rhymes with Madville.

The product wasn't on the shelves. Instead, you had to take a piece of cardboard from where the product should have been displayed. Then you had to take it to the cash register and ask for the product. But you weren't given the product. Not right away.

The nice cashier requested my driver's license.

"Why do you need my driver's license? I'm buying a sinus pill, not a motorcycle. I wasn't planning on driving the product home."

The cashier said Uncle Sam needed my ID. She also said she'd need to put my name into a computer database.

"You mean the federal government needs to approve my sinus headache," I asked.

Turns out, she says, Madville contains a decongestant named pseudoephedrine. It can be chemically processed into a drug called methamphetamine. Apparently, meth has been popping up all over the place these days and so Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005.

Today, federal and state regulations restrict the sale and purchase of products containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Federal restrictions include daily purchase limits of no more than 3.6 grams; 30-day mail-order purchase limits of no more than 7.5 grams; identification of the purchaser; and logging in and reporting sales to authorities.

The objective is to eliminate the use of pseudoephedrine in the illegal production of methamphetamine.

The clerk asked about personal information. Then she asked me to write my name on one of those electronic signature pads. After a short while, I was happy to walk away with my sinus medicine. After all that fuss, I was almost certain the buzzer would go off when I left the store. That's what happened when I bought my computer. Alarms rang. They turned me into an instant criminal - all because a clerk forgot to deactivate something. But this time I escaped Wally World without causing a scene.

As for the Madville, my lesson for the day was that buying a sinus pill is enough to give you a headache.

The same weekend, friend Sue Dolan sent me a valuable email. It contained some home remedies. One of the remedies was for headaches.

Did you know that two glasses of Gatorade will stop a headache almost instantly? That's what the email says. I haven't actually tried it. I wanted to run back to the store to buy a bottle of Gatorade. But I figured that it, too, is probably on the government's new 'controlled substance' list. I don't know what dangerous compound one can make from Gatorade but I'm sure the pharmacist will reveal it once I turn in my driver's license and passport.

I long for the good old days when shopping was fun. Remember when you could buy things without a need to flash I.D. or prove your citizenship? Those days disappeared. I'm not sure how or when that happened. But it seems as though we've lost our right to privacy, which might be an even bigger headache.

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