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West Valley police battle prescription-drug abuse 'crisis'

May 27, 2014

Arizona Republic

West Valley police battle prescription-drug abuse 'crisis'

Again, don't these police officers have any REAL criminals to hunt down??? Criminals like robbers and rapists that hurt people!!! Not people that commit victimless drug war crimes.

Last if this is a PROBLEM it should be a MEDICAL problem. Not a criminal justice problem where the solution is to hire more cops and build more prisons to throw more people in prison for victimless drug crimes.

But sadly that's how the police and police unions think. It's not about making the world a better place, it's about creating more jobs for cops.

West Valley police battle prescription-drug abuse 'crisis'

Matthew Casey, The Republic | 10:25 a.m. MST May 22, 2014

Prescription drugs were suspected cause of death in at least 18% of accidental deaths over three years in Maricopa County. [Yea, and cars were responsible for 100 percent of the deaths in traffic accidents. That doesn't mean we should make cars illegal!!!]

Michelle Wakefield copes with migraines on a daily basis, and a few years ago, doctors prescribed the special-needs teacher from Surprise pain medication to alleviate the headaches.

When the drugs didn't help, Wakefield received a different prescription from her neurologist and started looking for an opportunity to get rid of her old medicine.

Wakefield, 27, found it in a Surprise Police Department Facebook post announcing the Drug Enforcement Administration-coordinated national Prescription Take-Back Day.

"I don't want to have those around my kids," the mother of one and stepmother of three said after dropping off three bottles of her old medicine at the Bell Road Target parking lot in Surprise.

Last month, a half-dozen West Valley police departments took in about 1,650 pounds of unwanted and unused prescription drugs. The drugs were turned over to the DEA, which disposed of them.

"It's a group effort," Surprise police Sgt. Mike Donovan said. "You're disposing of things properly and making sure it doesn't contaminate our Earth."

Dangerous drugs

Prescription drugs were the primary suspected cause of death in at least 297 of 1,639 accidental deaths between 2010 and 2012 in Maricopa County, according to data from the county Office of the Medical Examiner.

But data about prescription-drug involvement in accidental deaths compiled by the medical examiner is not exact. In some cases, as many as four suspected causes of death are listed. In others, non-specific causes, such as "mixed drug intoxication," don't identify specific drugs.

Determining the cause of death is complicated because even knowing there were multiple prescription drugs in a person's system does not necessarily tell an examiner which one caused the death, said Cari Gerchick, communications director for Maricopa County.

"Each case is an individual medical mystery that the pathologists have to solve," she said.

In the accidental-death cases where more than one drug was detected, judging which one caused the death amounts to speculation, said Dr. Jeffrey Johnston, the county's chief medical examiner.

The National Association of Medical Examiners has recommended including specific drugs in the cause of death, Johnston said, and the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner intends to adopt that policy.

Gerchick said the county hopes to start by the end of the year, but there is no target date because doing so requires additional training. It is a priority because prescription-drug abuse is a public-health crisis as well as a public-safety and education issue, she said. [Bullsh*t - public-safety = police issue. If this is a problem it certainly is NOT a police problem, it's a medical problem]

"Despite the cost, we'll find a way to do it with existing resources," she said.

Numbers reflect total detections in toxicology reports, including detections not listed as primary cause of death, in 1,639 accidental deaths from 2010-2012. In at least 297 of these deaths, prescription drugs were the primary suspected cause.

Prevention, enforcement

Prescription-drug abuse is most frequent among high-school students and older teens,said Glendale police Sgt. Jay O'Neill. That's why the Glendale Police Department has partnered with, the Arizona affiliate of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, to educate students and parents about the issue. [Again, the police want to turn what should be a health problem, into a criminal problem so they can justify hiring more cops and getting more money!!!! If it's a problem, it's certainly NOT a police problem, but a medical problem]

"They give parents the skills and the tools to have open dialogues with their kids in the hopes that the kids will talk to the parents about the things that they see or hear about," he said.

In Surprise, all police officers participate in prescription-drug enforcement, Donovan said. [sounds like a jobs program for cops!!!! When it should be a MEDICAL problem]

"Anywhere we go, our awareness is such is that we are watching for signs of lots of different things," he said. [If you ask me the police should be looking for criminals like robbers and rapists, not some unhappy smuck who talks an Oxycontin tablet to make himself feel better!!!]

"It's not only an elite group of six people who run around looking for drugs, it's everyone." [The old us against them mentality the cops have. It's the cops vs EVERYBODY who doesn't have a gun and a badge]

The DEA attacks prescription-drug abuse at the source by monitoring the prescriptions doctors write and the amounts doled out by pharmacists, said Gregory D. Lee a retired DEA supervisory special agent.A doctor who writes a large number of prescriptions for opioid drugs would raise suspicion and could prompt an investigation. [Again this should be a MEDICAL problem, not a police problem!!! We don't want uneducated police thugs telling doctors how to do their jobs]

"The ultimate source of supply for the street dealer is going to be the doctor," he said. "So it only makes sense from a DEA standpoint to go after the doctor because he is the ultimate source of the pills." [sadly the DEA policies prevent really sick people with major pain from getting the opiate drugs they need in an effort to keep a few junkies from getting the drugs. That's wrong!!!!]

Recent changes in the way some prescription pills are manufactured help thwart abuse by making them uncrushable, Lee said. [So now cops are telling drug companies how to manufacture drugs.]

"It renders it useless from the standpoint of the people who wanted to snort it or inject it or do anything else with it," he said.

"You're playing Russian roulette if you start taking prescription pills that were not prescribed to you."

Mary Burch, a 41-year-old Surprise resident, also brought several dust-covered boxes filled with her late mother's medications to that city's prescription take-back day.

Like Wakefield, she decided to get rid of the drugs to keep them from her three children.

"They are the last ones that I would like to get ahold of anybody else's medicine," she said. "I know that they've come home and told me that they hear about stuff throughout the (school) hallways. It's out there. I just have to keep them educated."

Prescription-drug information

10 most common prescription drugs detected in toxicology reports for accidental deaths, 2010-12

Source: The Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner

Prescription drugs taken back by West Valley police departments:

Glendale: 243.6 pounds.
Surprise: 769 pounds.
Peoria: 350 pounds.
Tolleson: 79 pounds.
Avondale: 140 pounds.
Buckeye: About 65 pounds.
Source: Department public information officials

Year-round prescription-drug drop offs


Buckeye Police Department, 100 N. Apache, Suite D.


Police administration building, 14455 W. Van Buren St., Suite E101.

Fire Station 183, 3075 N. Litchfield Road.


Pinnacle Peak Public Safety Building lobby, 23100 N. Lake Pleasant Parkway.

Public Safety Administration building lobby, 8351 W. Cinnabar Ave.