When it comes to drug abuse, most people think of drugs like marijuana, cocaine or heroin. However, a growing problem is not limited to illegal substances.
The Savannah Morning News reports that in the Savannah area, during this year, the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team has had its hands full dealing with prescription medication arrests.
The inter-agency drug enforcement force now works nearly as many prescription drug cases as marijuana or cocaine, CNT Agent Ron Tyran said.
While the recent increase has hit Savannah and Chatham County, the problem is not limited to the south. The National Office of Drug Control Policy notes on its website: “Abuse of prescription drugs to get high has become increasingly prevalent among teens and young adults. Past year abuse of prescription pain killers now ranks second-only behind marijuana-as the Nation’s most prevalent illegal drug problem.”
The article notes some Florida doctors have begun selling prescriptions to make additional revenue during the recession. The doctors’ willingness to violate the law and sell prescriptions illegally attracts addicts and dealers from Tennessee and Kentucky, Tyran said.
Georgia is attractive to these addicts and dealers as it is one of the few states in the nation without a prescription-monitoring program. Attempts to create such a program have conflicted with some of the more libertarian element of the General Assembly, Tyran said. These legislators have blocked any monitoring programs out of concern for patients’ privacy rights.
Without such a program, Georgia is a magnet for this problem, which is even more noticeable near its borders. Chatham County borders South Carolina, which has a monitoring program, and this make it easy for residents of South Carolina to drive across the border to Georgia to make their purchases of illegal prescription drugs.
Savanna pharmacists are frustrated at the numbers of prescriptions they receive from residents of Florida and other states in the area. The pharmacists report people tell them they cannot get them filled in Florida, so they come here.
The CNT’s Tyran created a website similar to the Savannah-Chatham police Savannah Area Regional Information Center, which allows pharmacists to track suspected abusers. Pharmacists can share information about suspected addicts and the site is regularly updated to reveal people who recently have faced arrests on charges of possession or illegal prescription drug sales.
Local drug dealers also have moved to sell more illegally obtained prescription medication. Unlike methamphetamines or heroin, where the user never knows exactly what they are buying, with prescription medicine, they are somewhat assured of the safety of the drug and that it is not adulterated or laced with some toxic substance.
This perception may make persons feel that they are “safer” using these drugs. Of course, if they are addicted, they are not safe and some local drug abuse specialists note that some pills cause an addiction that can be more difficult to break than methamphetamine.
Prescription drug abuse has become a problem with teens because of these attitudes about these drugs, and the feeling they can obtain a “safe” high, since they came from a pharmacy. Teens also may have easy access to the drugs, often from their parent’s medicine cabinet or purse.
This illusion of safety makes becoming addicted easy, but Centers for Disease Control noted intentional poisoning deaths involving psychotherapeutic drugs, such as sedative-hypnotics and anti-depressants, grew 84% from 1999 to 2004.
Because kicking the addiction is difficult and with some drugs, like central nervous system depressants, create harmful consequences during withdrawal, anyone suffering this form of addiction should seek medical assistance.
If you are being investigated or arrested for prescription drug abuse, in addition to medical assistance, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, who can advise you of your rights and legal options.