Prescription painkiller addiction spreads across Tennessee Valley

The AP reports that prescription pill abuse is increasing throughout the United States.
The AP reports that prescription pill abuse is increasing throughout the United States.

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - The Tennessee Valley is part of a nationwide increase in prescription pill sales, according to a recent Associated Press analysis.

Madison County Sheriff's Deputies said the prescription pill abuse and addiction problem is rampant.

"The prescription pill problem is big. It's big in our area," said Sgt. Brian Chaffin, Madison County Sheriff's Department Investigations Supervisor. "Not just the fact that we have people selling and using prescription drugs, but the fact that we now have people committing crimes to support a habit or an addiction."

Florence Police said they have not made an arrest in their most recent case of prescription pill theft. Shots were fired at a home invasion in the Four Lane trailer park on Hough Road, sending one man to the hospital and leaving police on the hunt for the two armed robbers. Police said the two men knocked on the victim's door asking to use the phone April 11, 2012. When he opened the door, he saw one of them holding a gun and they were demanding drugs. The offenders got away with his prescription medications.

"People will rob a pharmacy, and know where to go in a pharmacy and take and what medications to pick up and leave with," said Chaffin.

Before addicts turn to crime, many of them go through a process called "doctor shopping."

"They'll start on one end of town and go to the other. What they'll do is they'll go to this doctor and say they have a backache, elbow, some type of injury. They'll move on to the next doctor as quick as they can. A lot of times they get away with it for a period of time. We have investigators that follow up and do a pattern or a timeline on people and show they are doctor shopping," Chaffin explained.

The Associated Press found pharmacies across the country in 2010 received and dispensed enough pure oxycodone and hydrocodone to give every person in the United States 40 5-mg Percocets and 24 5-mg Vicodins. The DEA does not track pill amounts received by individual patients.

Investigators said it's a problem that will never be stopped completely, but with the help of community members it can be controlled.

"If you see behavior changes, you see something that's just not right. You know, if you're around a person for a long time and they change all the sudden, something's not right. Become involved, ask questions. Don't be an enabler. That's the big thing," said Chaffin.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Scottsboro Police Department, Stevenson Police Department, Bridgeport Police Department and Section Police Department will be participating in the DEA Sponsored National Take Back Initiative on Saturday April 28th, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. During this event, people can bring all expired or unwanted controlled, non-controlled or over the counter pills so that they may be properly disposed of.  
Drop off points for this event are:
-Higdon Fire Department, 29000 Highway 71, Higdon, AL
-North Jackson Pharmacy, 85 Bank Street, Stevenson, AL
-Kilgore Express Pharmacy, 50466 Alabama Highway 277, Bridgeport, AL
-Big C Drugs, (Skyline), 21549 Alabama Highway 79, Skyline, AL
-Section Pharmacy, 5305 Tammy Little Drive, Section, AL
-Walmart Pharmacy, 24833 John T. Reid Parkway, Scottsboro, AL.

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