According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—CDC, prescription drug abuse in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions. Across the country, more and more states are reporting increases in crime directly traceable to prescription drug use.
Boston’s National Public Radio affiliate, WBUR, aired a story about the connection between increased crime in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and prescription drug abuse. According to Police Sgt. Cleve Daniels of the Dennis Police Department, addicts are stealing valuables to sell for drugs and breaking into homes just to ransack medicine cabinets. “There’s a direct correlation between prescription drugs and a rash of house and car breaks here,” he said.
Percocet, frat boys and shooting houses
A 30 milligram Percocet is the most popular prescription drug in Cape Cod. Each pill can get $30 on the street. According to Daniels, addicts typically use between four and eight pills daily. But Dennis Detective Damon Reinhold added the addicts he arrests around Cape Cod are not typical. “They seem to come from normal backgrounds — college kids, kids who were athletes in high school, kids who seemed to have everything together. When we do our search warrants we see these kids living in these deplorable conditions, and I mean deplorable—rental houses—it’s like the stuff you see on TV, needles all over the floor, used needles everywhere, rubbish…they’re flop houses,” said Reinhold.
Pharmacy heists and drug diversion
New York State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein authored a report titled, “Prescription Drug Abuse and Violence against Pharmacies.” According to the Drug Enforcement Agency—DEA—statistics contained in the report, between 2006 and 2010, there was a 79 percent increase nationwide in crimes committed against pharmacies—from 380 to 686. The number of pills stolen in pharmacy robberies jumped from 706,000 to 1.3 million. In Klein’s home state of New York, there were four pharmacy robberies in 2006; in 2010, there were 30. Some pharmacies have stopped stocking prescription opioids as a result.
According to the DEA, 59 people were arrested in 2009 for diverting controlled prescription drugs. In 2010, the number was 169—a 286 percent increase. In 2011, the number of people arrested for prescription drug diversion was 217.
The rise of pharma cartels
In a truly disturbing development, the U.S. Attorney’s office in California issued a press release documenting the role of Mexican drug cartels in the prescription drug black market. Dubbed “pharma cartels,” these new criminal enterprises, based in Tijuana, use the Internet to sell Oxycontin and Vicodin to buyers in the U.S. According to U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, these organizations make hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. Duffy says that the pharma cartels get their supply by diverting prescription painkillers from hospitals and pharmacies. Some enterprising gangs have begun to produce their own drugs in makeshift laboratories.
An epidemic creeping toward a pandemic
According to a recent U.S. National Survey on drugs, 6.1 million individuals age 12 and older used prescription drugs non-medically in the U.S. If you or someone you know is abusing prescription drugs, call our 24-hour helpline at 555-555-5555. We can help.