DHEC teams with SLED to track prescription drug abuse - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

DHEC teams with SLED to track prescription drug abuse

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Last year, more than 200 South Carolinians lost their lives to prescription drug abuse, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. Nationwide, that number is more than 16,000.

Now law enforcement agencies are crossing borders, and tracking the origins of these dangerous drugs to help keep them off the street.

"We see it as a type of high-brow drug dealing," said Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson.

It's drug dealing that often starts with legally obtained prescriptions, and quickly crosses county lines.

"It's hard to track because they shop doctors, they shop pharmacies, they go county to county," said DHEC Director Catherine Templeton.

"Our drug dealers are peddling pills on the street, just like they're peddling marijuana and cocaine," said Union County Sheriff David Taylor.

With help from the DEA, a special task force will now monitor suspicious prescription activity.

"As of Jan. 1, pharmacists will report every day within 24 hours on the business days they're open about their prescription controlled substances," said Templeton.

"They could go from pharmacy to pharmacy filling those prescriptions and it would take under our law currently 30 days before that report was made, so therefore they could proliferate all those pills into our community," said Johnson.

The data from the prescription monitoring program will be combed for suspicious prescription activity, and investigators won't be hampered by borders.

"They'll be working statewide, nationwide," said DEA agent Thomas Nuse. "If their investigation takes them to California, they'll go to California."

It's one step towards cracking down on what law enforcement officers say is the second biggest drug problem facing our state.

"When we see people 35-40 years of age dying of no apparent health problem, then its time to get concerned," said Taylor.

South Carolina has ranked 23rd highest in the nation for the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions as well as for the number of overdose deaths, according to statistics.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.

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