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Prescription drug crimes a signal to take notice

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Drug stores and supermarkets usually aren’t on the radar for would-be robbers, but when the prize is small, potent and easy to sell, they become targets. Recent robberies of local pharmacies stocked with OxyContin, a potent prescription painkiller, should be a wake-up call for local residents who thought thieves and thugs were only interested in illicit drugs. Lock up your prescription drugs now. According to the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, OxyContin abuse has risen over the past few years. In past months, thefts and attempted robberies of the drug have spiked as well. Some thieves are probably drug abusers, while others are selling the pills for as much as $40 apiece. Authorities suspect many thefts are simply from medicine cabinets by teens and children, and thus go unreported. “Are there a lot of arrests? No, but we know (home theft) is happening,” said Undersheriff Devon Bell. “We hear it from our school resource officers.” OxyContin addiction entered the public consciousness a few years ago when conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh was charged with “doctor shopping,” or using multiple written prescriptions to obtain the painkiller. Limbaugh, who suffered from chronic back pain, agreed to a plea deal that included 18 months of drug rehab. One of dozens of pain relievers using the active ingredient oxycodone – Percocet and Percodan are two other prominent ones – OxyContin is commonly prescribed for cancer patients and people with chronic, debilitating pain. But it’s also known for the euphoria or high it can produce, especially when carefully crafted time-release pills are broken or combined with other drugs and alcohol. OxyContin’s nickname, “hillbilly heroin,” comes from its roots in the suburbs of the Southeast. If you’re using OxyContin or other prescription pain-killing medications, you should already be aware of its strength. If you’re not prescribed to use it, you need to know that it can be abused. Probably the easiest thing one can do is to keep prescription drugs in a locked case. You probably don’t want family, friends or guests finding it available in your bathroom medicine cabinet, anyway. If you’re a parent, you should be concerned about its allure to your children and that it’s quickly catching on among teens and young adults – especially during these uncertain and stressful economic times. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids about their friends and parents, especially if they are likely to hang out with different groups and attend gatherings and parties. Those unlocked prescription medications can be tempting to an adventurous teen. And be on the lookout for potential abuse. Unlike the dramatic physical changes that accompany methamphetamine users, prescription drug abusers often can function undetected – but the damage is done nonetheless. Anxiety, insomnia, fever and flu-like symptoms all are potential signs of OxyContin abuse, and should be addressed immediately. Prescription drug abuse has been around for years, but we appear to be entering a phase when criminals are willing to take extreme chances and kids are finding it way too easy to get high. Please, safeguard your medicine cabinet and talk to your children.