The authorities and experts from a number of States are ringing the alarm bells: The United States is being swamped by the legal Prescription Drug Trade, that is drugs and drug-containing medications purchased at pharmacies on prescriptions from doctors (i.e., prescription drug-containing medications – PDCM). A great number of people are involved in this criminal business. According to the management of the country’s only specialized task unit that combats violations in the sphere of PDCM, the Drug Diversion Unit of the Police Department in Cincinnati, the illegal sale of prescription drug-containing medications amounts to 30% of all drug trafficking in the United States.
Street sale of these medications is carried out by so-called ‘doctor-shoppers
Sometimes when visiting a doctor they simply steal prescription forms, and then purchase the drugs at pharmacies in any quantity.
Drug addicts buy 2-3 pills of different PDCM, and prepare a dose for themselves, the efficacy of which is equal to heroin, but costs them no more than 10 US Dollars.
Health workers themselves are also rather active participants in this illegal business. For example, employees of the health care system usually make up one third of those arrested for criminal violations in this sphere by the police of Cincinnati alone. Experts of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) conclude that if there are so many health workers arrested for PDCM violations in Cincinnati, the severity of the problem in other cities, where there are no specialized units to combat this type of crime, can hardly be imagined. However, despite the scale of the disaster becoming an epidemic, according to experts of the NADDI, the Heads of State Police Departments use only a minor part of their capabilities to tackle it and focus the efforts of their staff primarily on combating the illegal street trade of heroin and cocaine, pushing back PDCM to second place.
The most alarming situation with the illegal trade and consumption of drug-containing medications is in the State of Ohio, where it has been repeatedly disclosed that pharmacies are selling potent drug analgesics such as OxyContin and Percocet, containing Oxycodone, on 2.7 million prescriptions, that is, in fact, to every fourth resident of the State, and Vicodin on 4.8 million prescriptions.
Scioto County, the Southern District of the State, holds the highest rank in all criminal indicators, and was included by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on the list of ten areas in the country in which the crime rate in the sphere of illegal trade of PDCM is the highest. According to the authorities, the rise in crime in the District is due to the following factors:
- poverty: unemployment in Scioto County is around 20%, thus making illegal drug trafficking profitable;
- convenient geographical location: the District is located at a busy traffic artery. In addition, the neighbouring states of Kentucky and West Virginia also have rather high criminal rates; and it is difficult to record and control the cross-border travel of Scioto County residents (primarily doctor-shoppers) for the purpose of visiting local doctors and buying PDCM in the local pharmacies;
– Indifference, inertia and unwillingness of the local authorities to cooperate with the authorities investigating crimes related to drug trafficking.
All these circumstances in the aggregate have created an excellent environment for the emergence and activities of illegal clinics in Ohio («pill mills»), where it is easy to get analgesics.
According to the authorities, in Scioto County alone (population: 74 thousand) there are eight such clinics. State law enforcement authorities say that they do not have enough money or power to really fight against unscrupulous doctors, who hand out the prescriptions, or the dingy pharmacies selling drug-containing medications on them. The Pharmaceutical Council and the Medical Association of Ohio also find reasons to explain the lack of proactive position on the matter. Meanwhile, over the last decade deaths due to PDCM overdose increased by 280% in the State. A typical example is a local resident whose surname was Gordon died of an overdose sitting in front of the TV. Over 7 weeks Gordon had visited 5 doctors and got prescriptions for 312 analgesic pills, then bought them in several pharmacies.
Misuse and excessive use of PDCM in the treatment of patients has been noticed by the law enforcement authorities in ordinary clinics as well.
Of course, the said situation did not appear all of a sudden. The US government has recently formalised the legalisation of marijuana. It is not without the political and business circles of the US being engaged, that the sale of marijuana has become the fastest growing sector of the US economy. Since 1971 when President Richard Nixon was “at the helm”, the United States has been engaged in its battle with drugs, yet there has been no significant progress in solving this problem, and the United States is still a world leader in terms of drugs used.
The enormous drugs market is a guarantee that neither the current US authorities, nor the opposition will ever answer the question: who meets the demand and the growing appetite of Americans for drugs?
Besides, it is common place that the unhealthier the nation is (in this case whether it’s due to alcoholism or drug abuse) the easier it is to rule the country, to fill the pockets of the military and financial oligarchy, as well as to pursue odious domestic and foreign policy. And comments on Washington’s current policy are well-known and they are far from positive. The same can be said for the US nose-dive in international prestige.
Valeriy Kulikov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.“