Saturday, July 19, 2014

Local Hydrocodone Hijinks

The price of addiction? Not all drug crimes/sales/thefts are trafficking or involve as strong a drug as heroin. Some are so small as to hardly be worth risking...unless one was fairly sure he would get away with it. These crimes are thefts of various narcotics for personal use.

Recently we’ve heard of two such instances in the Shoals. Imagine this scenario: An ambulance is called to the home of extremely ill patient. A frantic family member hands the attendant a paper bag with the patient’s medicines inside. The paramedic then rides in the back of the ambulance to the emergency room. Upon arrival, he hands the appropriate person the bag of drugs, which now is minus any narcotics.

A savvy family member reported this crime, and the person responsible later admitted his guilt and was arrested in Franklin County, charged with simple theft of a small amount of narcotics. We say small amount since most narcotic scrips are limited in number initially and obviously contain a varying number of pills at any time during the (usual) month.

We understand that hydrocodone goes for about two dollars a pop on the street. Did this felonious ambulance personnel make any money from his theft? We’re guessing it could have gone either way, but the pilfered pills were probably for his own use.

How about an even smaller crime? We’ve reported earlier on the problems at a Lauderdale County nursing home where patients were not receiving their hydrocodone as prescribed. Was this a huge theft? No it could have been as little as one or two pills each day. Obviously, this would indicate someone with a personal need or someone who assisted others with his/her personal need.

How did it work at the nursing home? One patient in this scenario, now deceased, was receiving 10 milligrams of hydrocodone every three hours. The prescription was written so that the 3:00 a.m. dosage could be omitted if the patient was sleeping and appeared comfortable.

What would a medicine nurse do if this were the case? We hope she would note that the dosage wasn’t given, but who would know if she slipped the single pill into one of her numerous pockets and charted the drug as administered? The exact number of pills someone could steal in this manner would never be great and would depend on the number of patients who had drug orders with this much leeway.

As far as we know, the situation at the local nursing home was never resolved. Was it covered up? We can’t say that it was or wasn’t, but our source has never heard the results of any investigation. Intentionally swept under the rug? Perhaps it’s simply that with so little proof, there was nothing nursing home authorities could do. In this particular case, there were other full hydrocodone scrips totally unaccounted for, and we continue to monitor that situation.

The moral of these small thefts? If you have a family member or friend who isn’t able to speak for themselves, be vigilant. Only a desperate or very misguided person would steal from someone who cannot take care of themselves but it happens even at reputable ambulance companies and Christian nursing homes.

We believe in leniency, but we also have to ask: If someone steals one or two pills because they have the chance, why wouldn’t they steal hundreds if the same chance arose?


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