Painkillers, antidepressants and other prescription drugs don't draw as much attention as illegal headline drugs like cocaine, marijuana or meth, but Wichita Falls Police are fielding calls for prescription drug abuse and fraud.
Sergeant John Spragins has nearly 10 years of experience with the WFPD's Drug Task Force. He said, "These types of investigations are usually pretty low key, they're not gonna call out the SWAT team. A lot of times our calls will come in from the pharmacist. When they see these forged prescriptions they will contact us and well try to catch the person when they're picking up the drugs."
People who know how to work the system will often shop doctors and pharmacies, filling multiple prescriptions at different locations to avoid being caught. Spragins said, "People go to the doctor and open up a cabinet, see a prescription pad and they'll tear off 5 or 10 sheets and stick them in their pocket then try to write the prescription."
Their availability of prescription pills makes them just as dangerous and addictive as other street drugs.
Dr. Lawrence Lyford with the Community Healthcare Center said, "In an uncontrolled manner, they can cause problems anywhere from kidney disease, sedation, car accidents, accidents in general."
Sergeant Spragins said there's been an increase in the number of teens abusing prescription pills nationwide. He said, "Mom and dad are our of town, friends come over, everyone pours what prescriptions they've found out on the table and they just start taking things...obviously extremely dangerous."
According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Americans as young as 12 and up abuse prescription drugs more than cocaine and heroin combined.
Prescription pills are especially dangerous because of their strength. Sgt. Spragins compared the pills to Methanphetamine production saying,"There's several different methods in manufacturing Methanphetamine and depending on whose doing the cook, you are going to get a different quality each and every time."
Spragins said that's not the case with prescription pills, which meet FDA standards and are consistently strong. "They are the highest quality product out there."
The NSDUH survey also said last year less than 4% of people who recreationally used pain killers got them from a dealer and more than half got them from a friend or relative at no cost.
Despite being able to get them at nearly any drug store, consistently getting your hands on prescription drugs can be difficult.
Sgt. Spragins said, "Wichita Falls is one of those communities where most of your pharmacists deal with their regular customers over and over and over. They know who's going to be coming in and picking up things."
If the customer is unfamiliar, pharmacies are supposed to ask for I.D. Doctor Lyford said pharmacists are trained to spot abusers and double check with doctors and colleagues if they're suspicious. "The pharmacists get to be pretty good at people who keep coming back at inappropriate times and the pharmacists across town do talk to each other fairly well."