WOOSTER — Just as Medway has “come out of the darkness” about its operations since its inception, members from the drug enforcement agency wanted to shed light on the area’s prescription drug problem.
“Things have changed folks,” Jim Garrett said. “I came back again (from retirement) because of the drug problem in Wayne County.”
Patricia Bintliff and Garrett, both on Medway’s pharmaceutical diversion unit, visited Wooster Rotary Club on Monday to explain the impact prescription drug abuse has on the community.
“When (Garrett) started in law enforcement, they never asked if anyone took any medications,” Bintliff said, when burglaries were investigated 30-40 years ago. “Now, it happens every day,” mostly to elderly victims.
In 2013, Bintliff said, 22 percent of Medway’s drug cases revolved around prescription drug issues, as the largest issue Medway investigated last year. Cocaine was No. 2 at 21 percent, and heroin was third at 18 percent.
Within the umbrella of prescription drugs, oxycodone and hydrocodone are the most abused drugs Medway sees locally.
Garrett added since Medway started Operation Safe Return in 2009 — where “mailboxes” placed around Wayne County police departments accept expired prescription drugs — the organization has seen a sharp increase in the amount of drugs dropped off. The pounds of drugs incinerated the first year amounted to 300, compared to more than 2,800 just a few weeks ago.
“(Prescription drugs are) a huge problem that’s consumed us,” he said, noting the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population and consumes an estimated 80 percent of all pharmaceutical drugs.
Bintliff said prescription drug use is on the rise for several reasons.
Prescription drugs can usually be obtained through insurance companies and an addict is not as prevalent to society. But addicts of other drugs also obtain prescription drugs as a substitute and pills are more reliable from a “purity” standpoint.
Plus, street values of prescriptions typically make selling pills a profitable enterprise.
Bintliff said typical values for oxycodone is $1 per milligram.
“It’s a sure thing,” she said of manufactured prescription pills. “And insurance will pay for it so (addicts) don’t need to steal money from mom (to support their habits).”
But the reasons to investigate prescription drug crimes are important, Bintliff added, such as identifying addicts and getting them into proper treatment.
“It diverts attention away from actual patients and drives up the cost of health care,” she said.
“The only way we are going to beat it is by educating the public,” Garrett said. “It’s not just a law enforcement problem … it also affects you.”