Police require help in prosecuting prescription drug offenders

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

State bills propose prescription drug monitoring program

Area law enforcement are hoping to see passed a bill that would created a monitoring program to slow illegal prescription drug trade.

"If we have somebody who we believe is selling prescriptions, it's a very hard case to prove," said John Luckey, director of the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force.

"You stop somebody in a vehicle or you do a search warrant on their house, and they legally got all of these prescriptions. There is nothing that we can do about it if they are packaged properly."

In order to make a case, the Task Force has to either directly buy the prescriptions, or have a confidential informant buy the prescriptions from a suspected dealer, Luckey said.

"And, once they've sold another person a pill from that prescription, then we have a distribution case that we can present to the prosecutor," he said.

State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, and State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, have sponsored prescription drug monitoring program bills in the current state legislative session, which started Jan. 7.

From his experience, Luckey said people sell the prescription drugs after going doctor shopping and stocking on pills.

Luckey was the with the Jasper County Sheriff's Office for 12 years. He was also assigned to the Jasper County Drug Task Force. He came to the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force in 2007. He took over as director in 2011.

The dangers of prescription drugs, mainly anything opiate-based, are that users take them at the same time as other drugs, such as meth or alcohol, Luckey said. For instance, users will melt and inject time-released drugs that are equivalent to 12--72 hours of medication into their system at one time.

"That's what's leading to the overdoses," he said.

Luckey was the first deputy in Jasper County to be certified in taking down meth labs. In the mid-1990s, the Jasper County Sheriff's Office started finding meth labs. When it raided them, the deputies found pills everywhere that were not Sudafed.

They did not pay much attention to the pills because they were so mesmerized at finding a meth lab, he said.

"It actually took us a few years to realize, 'Hey this opiate situation is a problem,'" Luckey said. "It's been going on a lot longer than meth has. It's very common for a meth user to abuse opiates also."

The proposed monitoring program would make doctor shopping difficult, said Mick Epperly, Barry County sheriff.

Area dealers are selling oxycodone pills and other hard prescriptions as pain killers, he said.

"People are breaking into homes and stealing this kind of stuff for their gain and selling them," Epperly said. "It's been an issue."

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