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Experts: Prescription Drug Abuse A Crisis

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The fastest growing area of addiction is abuse of prescription drugs and addicts are pulling out all stops to get them, stealing them from relatives, getting bogus prescriptions and even robbing pharmacies.

It was a quiet afternoon in August when a young man seen here on surveillance tape walked into the Spartan Pharmacy in Bethel Park.

"Brandishing a gun, backed our pharmacist basically in a corner and said, 'Give me all of your narcotics,'" Adam Rice said.

The pharmacist emptied a safe of narcotics and the man, later identified by police as 26-year-old Garrick Dauberger, fled committing one in a spate of pharmacy robberies the region is experiencing even in our wealthiest towns.

But the appetite for prescription drugs knows no boundaries, and short of being robbed, pharmacies are also seeing more able-bodied people attempting to get pills with bogus prescriptions.

"We do have some doctors who I think are frankly just too careless with their prescribing patterns and then we have some people who are pros at working and manipulating the system," Neil Capretto with Gateway Rehabilitation said.

One young man became addicted simply by stealing them from the medicine cabinets of his relatives and friends.

And while he's getting treatment, less fortunate addicts are showing up at the county morgue. Fatal overdoses are at an all-time high and are increasing as doctors prescribe more and more pills.

"The number of overdoses pretty much parallels that increase in the number of prescriptions," Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams said.

Prescription drugs in conjunction with heroin and cocaine have become the No. 1 cause of death.

"Prescription medication are involved in about 65 to 70 percent of the drug overdose deaths," Capretto said. "A lot of people think just because a drug is legal it's safe."

But pharmacist Adam Rice says we all have to wake up to the problem and the dangers.

"Often times it's sort of swept under the rug and pretend that it's not there," he said.

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