Bell County: Prescription Drug Abuse Spills Into Central Texas

By: Kristin Gordon Email
By: Kristin Gordon Email

BELL COUNTY (April 26, 2013)-It's a small shop off Central Avenue in Belton, but The Medicine Shoppe is usually busy with those looking to fill their medicinal needs.

"Within my business I am in charge of taking care of the patients," said Toby Young, The Medicine Shoppe owner. "We have to make sure the medications are appropriate for that patient, make sure they aren't allergic to it. We also look for possible habit forming drugs and abusable drugs. We have to make sure there is a legitimate need for the prescription. So, it's a tough business. I can actually refuse business."

If that item is not appropriate for the patient Young will call the doctor to see about getting the prescription changed. He is also making sure they are not over using the medication.

"If the doctor prescribed them a months worth of pills and they come in ten days early to get a refill, we can't do that," said Young. "We have to call and check with the doctor first to see if their prescription has changed."

Young also says that if a customer has lost their pain medication and wants it refilled, they then have to report it to the police.

"If it is something you take all the time, we will call the doctor and they make the judgment call," said Young.

Hydrocodone is the big abuser according to Young. The second drug of choice is Alprazolam.

"The more you take obviously the body becomes tolerant to it and basically you have a need for more," said Young. "That's not what it was designed for."

All controlled substances are reported to public safety and so there are checks and balances in the system to see if someone is getting their prescriptions elsewhere and in multiple locations.

Local pharmacies also work closely with the newly formed Special Crimes Unit within the Bell County Sheriff's Office.

"It was a much needed unit and focuses on a myriad of crimes," said Lt. Michele Cianci, Special Crimes Unit. "One of those crimes is narcotics trafficking and also drug diversion." Young says the unit sees a lot of Oxycodone and anti-anxiety drugs.

Young said that individuals from Bell County area going outside of the county, mainly to large cities where they will frequent a clinic or a pain clinic.

They will get the doctor to write them a prescription at places called 'doctor mills.' This prescription will cost around $100 to $150. The individual comes back to Bell County and instead of going to a franchise pharmacy, they will find the smaller pharmacies and get them filled.

"Once word of mouth spreads, abusers from other cities will travel several miles to that small pharmacy to get their prescription filled," said Cianci. The person will then go to a buyer sell the $1 pills at $4 a piece.

The buyers then becomes a supplier that buyer becomes a supplier and sells the drugs on the street anywhere from $5 to $8 depending on the pill.

There is also abuse within a home, whether it's someone over dosing on their medication or someone is stealing from the medicine cabinet.

People who may take narcotics for a legitimate use usually have some left over. Over time they begin stockpiling all these medications in their house. If they do not dispose of those medications, children could find them and use them for other purposes. "Students, usually high school students, will raid their parents medications and in turn sell them at school," said Young.

Both Young and Cianci advise prescription takers to keep a count of their medication in case they suddenly come up short on a 30- or 90-day supply.

If the drugs have expired, but sure to take them, if it's not a narcotic, to a local pharmacy that takes back drugs. If it is a narcotic, there is a drug take-back day that is held annually at local law enforcement agencies.

"Many times we have elderly family members who live by themselves and may be taking several medications their heart, diabetes, blood pressure," said Young. "Over the years they tend to hold on to these old medications and have developed a pretty large stockpile.

When this family members passes away, be sure to gather up all of their medication and take it to the drug take back day." Young says to make sure medications are kept in the original container.

When they are disposed of, it is helpful to know what medication they are dealing with so they can either burn it or melt it depending on the best environmentally friendly way.

"People should never put their medicine down the sewer system," said Young. "It is very bad for the environment." In the near future, there is likely to be a shift towards paperless prescriptions, which will also help cut down abuse.

For a listing of drug take back sites, visit the Drug Enforcement website at

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