Hit and Run: Pharmacy Theft on the Rise

Abuse of and addiction to prescription medications are growing problems in the United States, among almost every demographic group (Read Think Locking the Liquor Cabinet is Enough? Think Again and Substance Abuse and Seniors). Some people may become addicted to these medications after using them for legitimate medical purposes whereas others may experiment with them in search of a high or an escape from their problems (Read Substance Abuse: Causing and Coping with Domestic Violence and Opiophobia: Addiction and Pain Management). Although the Drug Enforcement Administration has regulated the production and distribution of medicines for many decades, the federal government has recently taken more notice of the epidemic and increased measures to curb the problem (Read Drug Scheduling and the DEA and What the Doctor Ordered? Cracking Down on Prescription Drug Abuse).  The increased abuse of these substances has also caused a supply problem; without a medical need or sufficient cash, desperate addicts are opting for another illegal alternative.

Why are robberies of pharmacies becoming more common?

For those who are physically and psychologically dependent on these addictive medications, maintaining a regular supply can be difficult. To obtain them, the person needs a prescription from a physician, enough money to buy them from a dealer, or other types of drugs that would be considered valuable on the street for a trade.  But a person who has no way to purchase or otherwise acquire these substances may turn to criminal activity to either get additional money or the drugs themselves (Read When Drugs Lead to Other Problems). As reported by CNN  in June 2011, drug theft is a growing problem in America; in the past seven years, there have been 2,000 reported robberies of pharmacies across the United States by people using knives or guns, and the actual number could be much higher.  Most of the thefts are committed by the addicts themselves who are attempting to get drugs like OxyContin (one of the most desired targets), Vicodin, Adderall, Dilaudid, Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, Percocet, Valium, Ritalin, and many others.  Some pharmacies have even dropped OxyContin—a bottle of which could be sold for as much as $5,000 in the illegal prescription drug market—from the medicines that they dispense in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of being targeted (Read Oxycontin Withdrawal).

How can I tell if a person is abusing a prescription med?

Many people have the misconception that prescription drugs are less dangerous than illegal substances like heroin or cocaine; however, as has been seen with many recent celebrity drug overdoses, abuse of these substances can cause significant medical complications or even be fatal (Read Overdose: Why It Happens & What to Do When It Does and Michael Jackson & Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse).  Deviating from a doctor’s orders in any way would be considered a form of prescription drug abuse; if you are concerned about someone’s use patterns, carefully evaluate the signs and attempt to get that person into treatment (Read Intervention: Is It Time? and Prescription Drug Abuse: When to Be Concerned).

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