Members of the Wauwatosa Police Department's Community Support Division, with backup provided by the folks at WauwatosaNow.com, are now blogging. We will be providing you with an ongoing series of crime prevention tips, any current crime trends as well as pertinent news and notes as it relates to your Police Department.
This is the second in a series of blogs addressing the abuse of prescription medications for non-medicinal purposes. This information comes to us courtesy of Officer Jason Weber who is the Community Liaison for the Town of Menasha PD and also sits on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Crime Prevention Practitioners Association (WCPPA / www.wicrimeprevention.com).
Analysis – Localized problem
We are starting to see risk taking people experimenting with these medications. More and more people are starting to use prescription and over the counter medication as a way to achieve a quick high. People view these medications as safe, in a sense that they are prescribed and approved by the FDA. These medications are also easily accessible and people don’t even have to venture out of their home to access them.
We are no stranger to that trend here in Wisconsin. In a recent press conference, WI Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen stated, “sixty (60) percent of our teenagers report that they have access to controlled substances in and around their homes. Two in ten (20%) have abused them to get high! None of us would drop our kids off at a ‘drug house’, yet many of us do not safeguard our own prescription drugs.”
Teenagers have started abusing these medications at “pharming” parties. This is a party where everyone brings a bottle of medication and they combine all of them in a candy dish or bowl. The more varied colors of pills the better, another term used for these parties is “skittling” because the pills resemble the candy of the same name. Recently in the Town of Menasha, WI, the Police Department arrested a 15 year old girl that had almost 200 prescription pills that she had taken from relatives and was attempting to sell at her high school!
Some people may view this as a “victimless” crime, in a sense that the only damage being done is to the abuser. Law enforcement agencies in Northeast Wisconsin can attest to the fact that this is not the case. In recent years, law enforcement has investigated many thefts and burglaries where pharmaceuticals were the primary target. In many cases, money and jewelry were bypassed! These addicts and criminals have become increasingly brazen in their crimes and we have started to see home invasions where innocent residents have suffered serious injuries. Pharmacies have also been the target of armed robberies, something that was unheard of ten years ago! According to the DEA, nearly a third of all armed robberies of pharmacies in Wisconsin occurred in Northeastern Wisconsin.
Even more disturbing is the number of people that have been hospitalized and even died due to this abuse. In 2008, almost half of the drug relatd emergency room visits in the Fox Valley were the result of a pharmaceutical. We also saw 36 drug related deaths, of which 27 had a pharmaceutical present.
Now although this refers heavily to Northeastern Wisconsin, this is an ongoing issue throughout the entire country and we all need to be aware of what is going on in your community and our own homes.