Prescription Drug Abuse Leads to Increased Pharmacy Crimes

Prescription Drug Abuse Leads to Increased Pharmacy Crimes

No one is surprised when illegal drugs are connected to crime. What may surprise people is that legal prescription medications are also increasingly linked to criminal behavior. Many people who become addicted to prescription medications began abusing them under the false impression that because prescription drugs are legal they are somehow safer. Recent events and statistics demonstrate that not only do many prescription drugs share the same potential for addiction, they also share a link to violent crime.

The numbers, each one representing a precious American life, tell the story of the growing danger of prescription drug abuse. In 2011, the Los Angeles Times ran a story which reported that in 2009, the number of Americans who died as a result of prescription drug abuse exceeded the number of those killed in vehicular accidents. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the number of Americans whose deaths are related to prescription drug abuse has doubled in just the past decade. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 2.7 percent of the U.S. population, or nearly 7 million Americans, currently use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.

The prescription medications most often abused are prescription painkillers. Prescription pain relievers are implicated in 73 percent of all instances of prescription drug abuse. Drugs like OxyContin and Roxicodone along with the hydrocodone-based medications Vicodin and Norco are among those most often being misused. These drugs must be picked up at the pharmacy, and the abuse of these medications has brought violent crime in its wake and into the local drugstore. The rise in crimes occurring at the neighborhood pharmacy is alarming.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the number of armed robberies occurring in pharmacies rose by a frightening 81 percent between the years 2006 and 2010 (from 385 to 698). Robberies involving a gun in 2010 numbered around 700 and there have been more than 2,800 such robberies since the year 2006. It is usually a small, locally owned pharmacy which gets targeted when such crimes are committed. A few recent cases highlight the cause for concern:

  • In South Carolina, a man carrying a gun demanded that the pharmacist load his bag with Oxycodone
  • In New York, two men were killed by a gunman while the robber demanded money and prescription pain relievers
  • Also in New York, four people, including the pharmacist were shot and killed by a robber who demanded prescription drugs including 10,000 pain pills
  • Recent pharmacy robberies have been attempted in North Carolina, Arizona and Massachusetts

Experts have suggested that pharmacies take precautions to protect themselves and their customers. A few of those suggestions:

  1. Place dangerous prescription medications like OxyContin into a locked safe
  2. Place a measuring tape in or along the frame of the main doorway so that surveillance cameras will record a robber’s exact height
  3. Place the pharmacy aisles and counters in such a way as to ensure an uncluttered view of the store entrance
  4. Place a bell on the door which rings each time a customer enters
  5. Make sure that the pharmacist and all behind-the-counter employees look and take note of all entering customers

The abuse of prescription drugs is of concern for several reasons. It is reaching epidemic proportions, it is involving criminal elements, it is killing our citizens and it is making a necessary trip to the pharmacy a potential danger.

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