PICKENS — As in most American communities, the presence of street drugs is a concern, but for Pickens County, the growing number of prescription medications illegally sought and sold is a growing concern.
“We noticed a trend across the country with teens having what are called ‘pharm’ parties,” explained Captain Chad Brooks of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office. “These kids raid their medicine cabinets at home, bring whatever they find to a party and everyone throws all the pills in a bowl and then just take whatever without knowing what it is, possibly, or the side effects these prescription drugs have when mixed with one another.”
The prescription medications appearing more and more often in the county are categorized as Schedule III controlled substances, usually in the form of opiates such as Lortab, oxycodone and hydrocodone.
“Unfortunately, we’ve become a pill-laden society. Every time you turn on the TV there’s another ad for a prescription medication running,” Brooks said. “Over the last five years, and this is an estimate, but I would have to say there’s been at least a 30 percent increase in the presence of these pills on the street.”
For the sheriff’s office, this increase presents a growing and unique issue for the department.
“These prescriptions have some highly addictive qualities, some physical, some psychological, and for some there are both,” Brooks said. “People need to understand and be aware there’s a problem and that it’s not OK to fix your child’s headache with a Lortab, first because that’s not what it’s for, but because it is addictive.”
Local law enforcement is not only seeing an increase in prescription drugs on the streets, the cost of maintaining an opiate dependency has opened the door for a much more dangerous, yet cheaper alternative.
“Some of these pills go for $1 per milligram on the street, and if you have a habit it gets expensive, too expensive to keep up,” Brooks explained. “So, we’re starting to see heroin in Pickens County as a result. Heroin’s cheaper than some of the pills when it comes to cost for some of these people, and just goes to show how much of a problem the addiction is.”
In an effort to reduce the numbers of prescription pills sold illegally in Pickens County, the sheriff’s department, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), holds two events every year for pill take back opportunities.
“Pharmacies won’t take back old prescriptions because of the cost to dispose of them, so we do this and send everything to the DEA to be destroyed,” Brooks said. “Not many people know this, but water samples have shown the ingredients of these prescriptions in them because they were flushed down the toilet. So now all of this is getting into our water as well.”
How does Pickens County fight this problem?
“The biggest thing is education and being aware of the problem for starters,” Brooks said.
The next scheduled Pill Take Back events are scheduled for April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cannon Memorial Hospital, Baptist Easley Hospital and the Clemson Free Clinic.