Prescription drug abuse is becoming a major problem in both rural and urban North Carolina. Bladen Online is taking a closer look at prescription drug abuse in Bladen County. This is the final installment in a series of stories more closely examining the issue.
According to Investigator Richard Allen of the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, prescription drug abuse is currently the biggest problem in Bladen County.
“I’ve been working [narcotics] for about six years and our main focus most of that time has been prescription pills,” said Allen.
Both Allen and Elizabethtown Police Department’s Criminal Investigator Dewayne Cheshire said narcotics are the motivation behind many other crimes like break-ins and robberies.
“I would say probably 85 percent of the break-ins that we have are drug related,” said Allen. He said the addicts will typically steal equipment like chainsaws or weed eaters and take them to their dealer to trade in for drugs.
Allen also said many people will steal the elderly’s prescriptions. “We have had people who would pick up 5 or 6 elderly people and take them to the doctor and pay for their visit and for their prescription and then sell their pills,” he said.
Cheshire said while it started out as a big deal amongst mainly the middle class families and people with no criminal background, the prescription drug problem is starting to show up in gang-related activities.
“In the past year, one of the things we have seen is the prescription meds are starting to migrate over to the gangs. The way they look at it, they don’t care if you are hooked on marijuana, cocaine, oxycodone or Percocets, they are seeing that there is a market there for that. So we are seeing a lot of that starting to be sold by, for lack of a better term, your street pharmacists,” said Cheshire.
Cheshire also said there has been a definite rise in doctor shopping and stealing prescription pads so that forged prescriptions can be written and taken to the pharmacist.
“When they are hooked on these pills, they are building up a tolerance to them. So they keep taking more, but not only are they taking more, they are selling what they don’t take,” said Cheshire.
Cheshire theorized the reason many people turn to prescription medications is there is not as much of a stigma around prescription drugs verses recreational drugs.
“We take a pill today for everything. You get indigestion, you take a pill. You get a headache, you take a pill. It’s one thing to snort a line of cocaine or smoke a crack pipe or shoot up some heroin, but when you take a pill, people don’t really think too much about that,” Cheshire said.
Allen said many people end up switching from prescription pills to heroin. “People are starting to transition from pills to heroin because they can get the same fix from heroin for like $15 where it’ll cost them $30 to $40 in pills.”
Allen encouraged residents of Bladen County to write down their serial numbers off of equipment. “They really need to take their serial numbers down for their property like their guns and their chainsaws and their weed eaters because the serial number helps us get their property back [to them],” said Allen.
Allen and Cheshire both strongly cautioned young people to be vigilant about being aware of what is going on around them and knowing what exactly they are putting into their bodies when it comes to prescription drugs.
“I’ve told [my daughter] this a lot, if you are anywhere, whether it be at a gathering or a function or whatever, never take any medication from anybody because you never know what people are giving you and how it will react with your system,” said Cheshire.
“As far as parents go, they need to watch out for anything that changes with their children,” said Allen.
Some of these changes can include hanging out with a different crowd of people, having money that cannot be explained, mood changes, failing their classes and not showing up for work or other responsibilities.
Allen said the main thing is to make sure you do not encourage or feed a loved one’s addiction. “If they have someone in their family who is using pills, then they need to cut them off and quit giving them money to enable and support their habit,” he said.
“They can text or they can call to leave anonymous information if they suspect someone of dealing drugs,” said Allen. “If they have somebody in their family that we need to be looking out for [they can call as well], because we are also here to help,” he said.
For those who have unused prescriptions and are trying to determine how to dispose of them, the Elizabethtown Police Department has a medicine drop off bin that is available during normal business hours. It was part of a grant Lt. Mark McMichael worked on a few years back. The drop box is located inside of the Elizabethtown Town Hall near the Investigations division door. It’s open to the public during normal business hours. There are no requirements to use the box just walk in and place the medications in the box.