Prescription Drug Abuse, Robberies on the Rise In North Mississippi

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(North Mississippi) The fight against drugs has now moved from illegal drugs to  medications prescribed every day. 

It's a particular problem in Northeast Mississippi.

The latest example of the problem occurred in Benton County Monday morning when someone smashed the front door of the Ashland Pharmacy and went on a drug shopping spree.

Pharmacists around the area say they have to fortify their businesses like a bank to stay safe these days.

There’s a big metal reinforcement bar on the front door of Horn Lake’s “Super Drug” store.

Owner and pharmacist Eddie O’Bannon says thieves are liable to find their way in, any way they can, ”They’ll come through the roof, they."”.

That’s exactly what happened early Monday at the Ashland Pharmacy in Benton County. 

A masked man smashed the door open and went on a drug theft spree.

This pharmacy has seen more break-ins in the last six months than it has in it’s thirty years in business.

But it’s hardly the only example of the growing prescription drug problem in Northeast Mississippi.

Just over a year ago, officers found the body of 45-year-old Tammy McVey of Alcorn County after she went to pick up pain medication for a friend recovering at Magnolia Hospital.

In 2007, Ripley Police Chief Burt Conley faced federal drug charges for possessing marijuana and hyrdacodone with the intent to distribute it.

”It’s always been a problem and on that has been on the rise” said District Attorney Ben Creekmore. He said it’s led to more prosecutions too, ”The amount of crimes that are being charged now is a lot greater than it was, say, ten years ago."

Narcotics officers in Northeast Mississippi tell us the problem continues to grow, getting more of their attention than ever.

They, and pharmacists like O’Bannon do everything they can to think of to slow it down, if not stop it, ”You really have to watch what you’re doing out there. We take a lot of steps, as far as calling physicians back to make sure. Verifying, making sure we have proper identification from patients and things like that.”

Not all the problem comes from obvious criminal activity. 

O’Bannon says counterfeit prescriptions are a huge problem that only adds to his overall fight.