PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE AND MISUSE – BROWARD COUNTY UPDATE
Throughout the last several years, sharp increases in prescription drug abuse and its related criminal activity have brought enormous challenges to our community. Sadly, we have seen the sprawl of pain clinics emerge – these clinics are often referred to as pill mills. With more pain clinics than McDonald's in our community – Broward County is ground zero for pill mills and the damage they cause. While many of these clinics masquerade as legitimate businesses, they really are a main source of drug diversion. Diversion is the use of prescription drugs for recreational use – “diverting” the drugs from their original purpose. The influx of pill mills has caused large supplies of dangerous narcotic substances to be made available in our community, which has ultimately led to increased incidents of drug trafficking, addictions and fatal overdoses.
In response to the overall problem, the Broward Sheriff's Office acted quickly by imposing a multi-pronged approach to combat the problem. Last year I announced our vigorous enforcement efforts. These actions focus on the fight against prescription drug diversion.
Through consistent, multi-jurisdictional, intelligence-led enforcement, BSO has played a major role in curtailing diversion activities in South Florida. The proof that our enforcement is working is evident in the numbers. Last year our deputies and detectives seized more than 300,000 prescription narcotics and seized an astonishing $10 million in drug money. With nearly 11,000 individuals arrested on drug-related charges, more than 65% were related to illegal pharmaceutical trafficking.
While enforcement is extremely important and absolutely necessary, I also understand that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. With that in mind, our agency successfully acquired a grant – Operation Medicine Cabinet – which allows us to also focus on education, awareness and safe drug disposal. More than 3,000 residents of Broward County have participated in education events. Survey results have consistently concluded that the program is making a positive impact. Those who benefited include: public and private school children, school faculty and administrators, law enforcement professionals, health care professionals, students and their parents, parent-teacher associations, non-profit organizations, religious groups and seniors.
The drug take back initiative has been another useful resource to curtail the misuse of prescription drugs. Since evidence shows that many children will experiment with drugs found in the home, we are providing opportunities for individuals to dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medications that may be stacked up in their medicine cabinets. To date, we have collected and destroyed over 28,000 dosage units of controlled prescription drugs. These are dangerous, addictive pain killers, stimulants and central nervous system depressants that, if misused, could cause great injury or death. Many non-controlled medications can be harmful and through our efforts, we have collected more than 141,000. These take back events take place throughout the year. I encourage you to visit www.sheriff.org/OMC to locate and participate in a prescription drug take back event taking place near you.
An instrumental person to our Operation Medicine Cabinet program is BSO's Sergeant Richard Pisanti. For the last six months Sgt. Pisanti was assigned to work within the White House's Office of National Drug Policy in Washington D.C. During his assignment, Sgt. Pisanti worked on the prescription drug abuse problem at the highest levels of government. He incorporated the prescription drug abuse prevention efforts we have put forth here in Broward County and implemented them into the current administration's National Drug Strategy. I congratulate Sgt. Pisanti on this outstanding achievement and welcome him back to Broward County to continue his work in prescription drug enforcement and education.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, there is help available – call Broward County's 2-1-1 helpline for guidance and resources.
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