Granted, society is 5-8 years late recognizing this serious problem, but at least it is now out in full view.
Prescribed problem Illegal use of medications a growing concern
OHIO - 2009 - The Daily Record - The stereotypical view of drug addicts buying their daily fix in small bags in back alleys is giving way to a new reality of prescription drug abuse where pharmaceuticals come in plastic bottles with a prescription pasted on the side.
Police and drug enforcement are dealing with a growing threat in the form of abuse of pharmaceutical opiates such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet. Typically prescribed for pain through legitimate prescriptions, obtained by deceptive means, or raiding medicine cabinets, the drugs are creating a new culture of addicts and dealers.
Only the OraPoint on-site drug screen effectively screens for these prescription pain relievers.
The problem with pharmaceutical opiates, according to Medway Drug Enforcement Agency Director David Smith, has grown in recent years so much it had to double its pharmaceutical diversion unit.
"If they learn there's an easy mark out there, they'll travel. Within that type of community, that word travels real fast. I'm sure they go to rural areas because they assume no one's watching, (rather) than to go to a bigger city," Smith said. "We have seen people from all over, not just adjacent counties, (but) two, three counties away."
The pharmaceutical diversion unit began May 2008, with aid of grant funding, consisting of former Wayne County Sheriff's deputy Jim Garrett. Bill Hofer, a former Wooster Police officer, came on in May to help with the caseload.
Cases investigated come from complaints filed, whether it's a doctor's office, a pharmacy, law enforcement or anonymous tips.
Medway made seven buys of Xanax in 2008, compared to two buys in 2007, and six buys of Oxycontin in 2008, compared to one buy in 2007. Other opiates purchased in 2008, not seen in 2007, include morphine, Darvocet, Lorazepam, Percocet, Klonopin and Hydrocodone.
Garrett said he has done a lot of outreach to local pharmacies, hospitals and they have been receptive and cooperative.
"They're on the front lines, they have a keen sense of observation," he said of local doctors. "Red flags will go up. They'll either question it or call us."
In 2008, Wooster Police reported 29 thefts of medication. So far this year, 11 thefts of medication were reported, Chief Steve Glick said.
"It's a tough one for us to do anything in a preventative measure because it's going to be happening inside people's homes," Glick said. "... It's kind of a wide ranging problem. Drugs like cocaine have to be imported and have to get here. Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocet, those drugs are readily available, and it's not the health profession's fault necessarily, it's just the fact that the drugs are available because they are prescribed."
Millersburg Police detective Sgt. Roger Estill said investigations have turned up instances of trafficking as well as addiction involving opiate-based prescription drugs. The drugs are often obtained through fraudulent means from pharmacies and emergency rooms, prompting physicians and pharmacists to watch for signs that illegal activity is occurring.
"I don't think there is an increase in activity. What's happening is an increase in reporting," Estill said. "The medical community is looking for it more, were getting a lot of cooperation from pharmacies."
Two individuals facing felony charges in Holmes County Common Pleas Court are charged with using deceptive means to obtain the drugs. The cases involve a 48-year-old Millersburg man who tried to get a prescription filled twice after claiming to have lost the first prescription, and a 28-year-old Warsaw woman charged with changing the number of pills on a prescription form.
In both cases, the drugs were legally prescribed by a physician, only not in the amounts requested.
"I find that when you go talk to them, they acknowledge it's a problem, but they don't know how to address the problem," Garrett said of people addicted to opiates. "They're just embarrassed to come to their family and say 'I have a problem.' Unfortunately, it takes us to contact them to admit it."