Scope of the Problem
Prescription drug abuse accounts for almost 30% of the overall drug problem in the United States, representing a close challenge to marijuana abuse. Pharmaceutical diversion reaps large profits for the traffickers, and devastation for the abusers. This eventually affects their friends, families, and their workplace.
The diversion of pharmaceutical drugs means that prescription drugs were illegally obtained by a variety of methods and a variety of offenders. This may have been accomplished by deception, or an outright theft of the drugs.
The diversion of prescription drugs is multi-faceted, and much deeper than those addicted to pharmaceuticals scamming doctors and pharmacists, although oftentimes this is the most obvious form of diversion and one that health professionals and law enforcement tackle daily. Sources of diversion include:
This is a common term that is referred to as “double doctoring” in Canada, but means seeing multiple prescribers within essentially the same time period attempting to obtain same or similar pharmaceuticals by deception. That deception can be an outright falsification by the person, or by merely staying silent as they scam as many dosage units as possible while attempting to avoid detection.
Individuals involved in this type of illegal behavior are typically addicted to pharmaceuticals, or are trading or selling their prescription drugs to others in order to obtain their drug of choice- heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or others. This is not to say that some of these individuals may also be taking large doses of their pharmaceutical drug of choice and at the same time selling some of the pills to support the expenses associated with doctor shopping. A smaller number of these people may be strictly doctor shopping in order to sell the drugs to make a significant profit.
False and Forged Prescriptions
Making or altering prescriptions is a common pharmaceutical crime that can be a criminal enterprise with several underlings working for the main trafficker and obtaining pills as payment for their work, to the addict that is merely trying to sustain their ever-growing habit of prescription drugs.
This area also includes those who would attempt to complete a phony call-in of a prescription drug over the phone by feigning to be the prescriber or some authorized employee of the prescriber. Depending on the scam, and the skill of these criminals, hundreds if not thousands of dosage units of pharmaceuticals can be obtained in these methods by fraud.
Health care professionals face the prescription drug abuser on a daily basis. These drug seekers prey on physicians, pharmacists, dentists, and their staff, in a relentless attempt to obtain pharmaceuticals. Valuable time is taken away from legitimate patients while health care professionals deal with drug seekers in the clinic, office, and hospital emergency rooms across the United States. These drug seekers see a multitude of health care professionals to obtain more and more of the prescription drugs they need to satisfy their addiction, and/or to sell at high profits on the street.
When health professionals become involved in pharmaceutical diversion, the comfort and safety of their patients can be jeopardized. Health facilities are often unaware of the types and methods of pharmaceutical diversion that are taking place in their institution on a regular basis. The problem may surface only after it is too late to prevent a tragedy. More importantly, preventative steps can be taken to discourage this activity in health facilities, and teach employees how to spot the signs of pharmaceutical diversion before a catastrophe occurs.
Prescription drug abuse is present in virtually all workplaces across the country. Because prescription drug abuse is often a “closet” offense, it frequently isn’t recognized in the work setting until an employee overdoses on prescription drugs, or a work related mishap occurs. In addition, standard drug testing in the United States does not screen for the most abused pharmaceutical drugs, the same drugs that are every bit as addictive and abused as common illicit drugs. Therefore, a prescription drug abuse related problem may occur in a workplace, and the employer may be unaware because of inadequate drug screens.