New "Narcotics Strategic Diversion Unit" to Attack Rise in Illegal Sales of Prescription Drugs
Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats announces an initiative targeting the increase in organized trafficking and sale of prescription drugs, doctor shopping and prescription fraud. The Narcotics Strategic Diversion Unit has been formed as a result of the increase of pharmaceutical overdose deaths and illegal diversion cases. The term "diversion" refers to the diverting of a legal prescription medication from its intended purpose to an illegal purpose. Diversion Unit Sergeant Dan Zsido says the Diversion detectives will be working with other local, state and federal agencies to increase public awareness and to target illegal prescription sales and abuse.
In tandem with Diversion Unit formation, Sheriff Coats also announces a second "Operation Medicine Cabinet" event to collect unused prescription drugs. The date is set for Saturday, November 14, 2009, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at all collection locations.
The Diversion Unit is contained in the Sheriff's Narcotics Division, which is in the Investigative Operations Bureau. The Diversion Unit is now actively investigating cases of prescription fraud and illegal sales of prescription drugs.
According to data from the District 6 Medical Examiner's Office reports for Pinellas and Pasco Counties, the number of deaths where oxycodone was present has doubled from 2006 to 2008. Indeed, the abuse of prescription drugs and deaths by overdose of prescription drugs either alone or in combination with alcohol has far outdistanced cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, GHB and heroin.
According to Sheriff's Diversion detectives, in 2008, there were 55 arrests on 147 charges. In 2009, just from January through August, 167 subjects have been arrested on 880 charges. That is a 267% increase in arrests and a 526% increase in charges. "Prescription drugs are now the drugs of choice and their abuse has caught fire in our community," according to Diversion Unit Sgt. Dan Zsido. "We have formed partnerships on the law enforcement side and in the treatment community to bring public awareness to this problem."
As an outgrowth to the formation of this new unit, the Sheriff's Office also announces another "Operation Medicine Cabinet" event where citizens can drop off their unused prescription drugs. Last spring over a ton of drugs was collected in the first ever "Operation Medicine Cabinet" event. The Sheriff's Office will staff four drop-off points where these medications will be secured for later destruction.
The locations are:
For further information on the new Narcotics Strategic Diversion Unit and Operation Medicine Cabinet, call the Public Information Office, 727-582-6221.
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