WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) – Officials with the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office Thursday told Region 8 News prescription drug abuse and theft are on the rise. According to Sheriff Dan Ellison, prescription drug abuse has become more of a common problem than traditional drug crimes, such as possession of methamphetamine and other narcotics.
"Illegal drugs are subsiding and we are seeing an increase in the prescription drugs being obtained and sold," said Ellison. "We have decreased the active labs or the cookers tremendously. We very seldom find one now."
Ellison said the county had as many as 30 warrants for theft of prescription drugs six months ago. He said the problem has been compounded by the economy.
"Some of these pills, such as oxycontin and hyrdrocodone and xanax and on and on and on, they can sell them for as much as $5 a pill," said Ellison. "We have warned the doctors, the hospitals and anybody that has a prescription pad. Please. Put them behind the counter because if they can get their hands on it they will forge that."
Captain Jody Dotson said he's seen stolen prescription drugs being stolen at a local high school. Senior citizens are also among the criminals, Dotson said.
"A lot of incidents of kids and grand kids stealing medicine from their grandparents or parents and then taking it to school and swapping it, selling it," said Dotson. "You're supposed to take one or two pills a day and they eat them like tic-tacs, and then they get out and drive and they're just as intoxicated as if they were drinking."
Ellison told Region 8 News anyone can be a criminal.
"We've had a lot of folks that's been going out and getting prescriptions and things like that and then they think because they have a prescription for it, oh it's okay or whatever, and then they overtake them so we end up arresting a lot of people for DWI drugs," said Dotson.
"It's creating a problem for some of our elderly but it's not just that, I mean we have experienced a case to where a mother sent her child to school to sell her pills," said Ellison. "You do run into a problem when you start selling those. You're getting into the area of illegal drugs."
The Lawrence County Sheriff's Office said it will no longer accept incident reports when involving stolen prescription pills. Ellison said those people will oftentimes use the report to obtain more pills to sell.
"For the last couple of years we had a lot of problems with people going to the doctor's offices and getting a prescription for some antibiotics where they had a cold, and then penciling in at the bottom for some xanexes or some hydrocodones," said Ellison.