Growing trend of prescription drug thefts

By: Stephanie Baker Email
By: Stephanie Baker Email

February 23, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Almost $2000 worth of highly addictive painkillers has been stolen from area homes and businesses in just the last week. They're familiar drugs with a high street resale value, like Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycodone.

Deputies say it's a growing trend.

Investigators say they get reports of thieves taking highly addictive painkillers from the people who need them every week. In some cases, they say the drugs are sold on the streets.

Katherine Morris takes pain medicine for her back and amputated leg. But now she's forced to endure the pain. Someone snatched 80 Oxycodone pills from her purse.

"It's medicine I need, and I'm having to do without," Katherine said.

Hers is one of seven similar reports recently filed with the Richmond County Sheriff's Department. In many of these cases, crooks are breaking in, ransacking the house or business, and making off with people's pain medicine.

"It's pretty obvious what they're going for, and what they want," Lt. Tony Walden said.

These recent cases add up to 1182 stolen pills--drugs like percocet and Tylenol with codeine.

"It's a potent narcotic worth a lot on the street," Lt. Walden said.

The drugs can cost more than $20 per pill....an expensive habit that doctors say gets people hooked within a week.

"If you take narcotics, you are going to become tolerant and dependent. That always happens," Dr. William Hammonds of MCG Health Systems told News 12.

Tolerance means people have to take more to get the same effect. Dependence means people's bodies start to physically need it...even if they don't have an injury like Katherine's.

"It's not easy, it's not easy at all," she said. "I need my medication."

The sheriff's department says the people responsible for these thefts could be charged with burglary and either misdemeanor or felony counts of taking narcotics.

It's the way these drugs work that makes them a target. Medicines like ibuprofen go straight to the area with the pain, but narcotics alter the brain...sometimes causing sedation and euphoria.

Another problem: deputies say some people who have a prescription report it lost to the sheriff's department so they can get more to then resell.


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