The Health Ministry is restricting the sale of possibly addictive nonprescription drugs, including common cold medicines.
As of November this year, pharmacists have been instructed not to sell more than one package per person of cold and nasal congestion medicine containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine exclusively, as they may be habit-forming.
Consumers will be required to present their identity card when buying these drugs and will be able to buy another package only two days after the first purchase, but no more than three packages a month, to prevent addiction.
"We can't turn pharmacists into policemen but we will make it difficult for consumers who want to buy medicine and use it as drugs," said Eli Marom, deputy director of the Health Ministry's Pharmaceutical Administration.
"The regulations oblige pharmacists to be more alert, although anyone who wants to buy several packages of an addictive drug could easily do so by hopping from one pharmacy to another," he said.
The restrictions apply among other medicines to the nonprescription drugs Tiptipot Afalpi, Afalpi Syrup, Sinufed and Sinufed Syrup, which consist exclusively of the active ingredient pseudoephedrine.
Health Ministry sources said that youngsters buy these drugs and produce from it a heroin-like component that could lead to fatal addiction.
The restrictions also apply to drugs containing the active ingredient codeine, whose sale was restricted by the Health Ministry in January 2007. Nonprescription drugs containing codeine will be be sold up to three packages per consumer a month and will not be displayed outside pharmacies.
Pharmacists will be required to keep sales records of habit-forming drugs for at least three years for Health Ministry inspection.
Addictive drugs made headlines recently following pop star Michael Jackson's mysterious death. In the United States the singer's sudden demise at the age of 51 was reportedly attributed to his intensified use of pain relievers and his addiction to them.
The Health Ministry is now gathering data about drug addiction in Israel. A survey conducted by the Israel Anti-Drug Authority indicates that 5 percent of the youth and 2 percent of the adults up to age 40 use sedatives without medical need and that 3 percent of the youth and half a percent of adults use drug stimulatives without medical need.