Holiday is "ground zero" for prescription drug abuse in Pasco County

5:37 PM, Jun 23, 2010   |    comments
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New Port Richey, Florida - The stats are alarming in Pasco County when it comes to prescription drug abuse and fraud, and one city seems to stand out when it comes to how bad things are.

Holiday is considered "ground zero" for prescription drug abuse, particularly Oxycodone, in Pasco County, according to the Sheriff.

"The problem doesn't go away. It doesn't shift, if we are less effective in capturing these people, they only grow in number," says Sheriff Bob White.

At a news conference on Wednesday, the Sheriff announced a crackdown in "Operation Summertime Blues."  The nickname for the sting comes from the slang used on the street  for Oxycodone.  "Blues" or "blueberries" is how people refer to them.

In total, 44 suspects were arrested on Tuesday after a six-month investigation. 45 people are still out there.

The suspects are accused of everything from forging prescriptions and passing them off at pharmacies like CVS, to buying pills from undercover agents at the mall to doctor shopping.

"It's an all-out war," the Sheriff says.  "It is what it is."

Sadly, the Sheriff says, 126 prescription-related deaths were reported to his agency in 2009.  From January that year to April 30, 2010, there were 88 suicides from prescription abuse, along with 385 overdose reports.

The Sheriff talked about the fact that more than 90 percent of the people detectives were looking for already have pending charges for controlled substance substance abuse.

So, what happens to legitimate patients in this area seeking pain management?

Even the sheriff admits a few bad apples certainly spoil the bunch. Some pharmacies in Pasco County stopped carrying the higher dosages of Oxycontin because of this problem.

It's news that doesn't sit well with legitimate patients like Sharon Seim.

"Now, its harder for me, and I'm legit," she told us while standing in front of her Holiday home.

Sharon suffers from severe scoliosis and rheumatoid arthritis.  She admits that she is on strong medication to control the pain.  But the doctor she saw for a while dropped her as a patient, after she claims he got scared by the high dosage of Oxycontin she currently takes.

"Doctors are scared of lawsuits now.  They drop patients like crazy," she said.

Now, she is currently seeing a new physician and is being treated with a lower dosage of medication.

"The people that are doing this are still going to find a way, you know, there's pain clinics everywhere and they're going to find a way," Sharon says.

The Sheriff says his biggest challenge right now is having what he calls enough "boots on the street."  Staffing has been an issue for him for years.  He wants to keep as many deputies working day to day calls, but knows that he ultimately needs more detectives to fight this prescription drug epidemic.

Nearly all of the top 50 prescribers of Oxycontin in the country live in Florida, and abusers know it.

The Sheriff says at one time, Holiday was the jewel of Pasco County. Now, things have changed.

Residents want their city back, from the "war" deputies are currently fighting.

New Port Richey Police also assisted in arrests during Operation Summertime Blues.

Melanie Brooks, 10 Connects

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