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Monday, 09 November 2009 11:45

Operation Medicine Cabinet: Drug Drop Off to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

Written by  Sheriff Jim Coats
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Sheriff Jim CoatsTo use medical terms, the illegal sale and trafficking in prescription drugs have reached epidemic proportions not only in the Tampa Bay area, but around the country. In an effort to target the increase in organized trafficking and sale of prescription drugs, doctor shopping and prescription fraud, Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats recently announced the formation of the Narcotics Strategic Diversion Unit. The alarming increase in the number of pharmaceutical overdose deaths was another factor in this expanded investigative effort.

The term “diversion” refers to the diverting of a legal prescription medication from its intended use to an illegal purpose. The new Diversion Unit will now be forming partnerships with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to increase public awareness and to work together to attack this trend. In fact, the St. Petersburg Police Department is already on board and has agreed to provide assistance and resources to the Diversion Unit.

As an outgrowth of the formation of the Diversion Unit, the Sheriff ’s Office has scheduled another “Operation Medicine Cabinet” event. This is an opportunity for citizens to properly dispose of their unused medications in a safe and secure manner. Last spring the first “Operation Medicine Cabinet” collected over one ton of medications from Bay Area citizens.

The next “Operation Medicine Cabinet” event is set for 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 14, 2009. The Sheriff ’s Office is joined by the St. Petersburg Police Department and “Live Free”, the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County. So far, seven drop-off locations have been established:

Sweetbay Supermarket • 1792 2 2nd Street South – St. Petersburg
The Fountains of Boca Ciega Bay • 1255 Pasadena Avenue South – South Pasadena
Sweetbay Supermarket • 6095 9th Ave. North – St. Petersburg
Sweetbay Supermarket • 7491 4th Street North – St. Petersburg
Kmart • 7949 113th Street North - Seminole
Sweetbay Supermarket • 1681 Main Street - Dunedin
Walmart • 3801 Tampa Road – Oldsmar

According to records compiled by the District 6 Medical Examiner’s Office for Pinellas and Pasco counties, the number of deaths by overdose of prescription drugs, either alone or in combination with alcohol, has far outdistanced cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, GHB and heroin.

Diversion Unit Sergeant Dan Zsido says that “oxycodone is the most abused and illegally sold prescription drug. Our arrests have more than tripled in just a year’s time and the number of charges has increased by well over 500%. We haven’t seen a trend in illegal drug preference like this since crack cocaine first arrived on the drug scene years ago. It is hoped that our enhanced enforcement effort and “Operation Medicine Cabinet” will create the partnerships and public awareness we’ll need to combat this problem.”

For more information on the Narcotics Strategic Diversion Unit, “Operation Medicine Cabinet” or a Sheriff ’s office speaker on these topics, please contact the Pinellas Sheriff ’s Public information Office at 582-6221.

To read more articles by Sheriff Jim Coats, go here.

Read 2708 times Last modified on Monday, 09 November 2009 15:31