Sgt. John Pearce, who heads the Sarnia Police Service Vice Squad of five members, told the Police Service Board Thursday that misuse of prescription painkiller drugs remains a significant problem, notably because of the "entrepreneurial opportunity" that exists between the cost of the a drug like Oxycontin and their street value.
Police so far this year have issued 40 search warrants related to drugs (including methamphetamine and cocaine as well as Oxycontin), with some 170 charges being made.
But the use of Oxycontin is what has Pearce and his team especially concerned.
"It costs about $25 a pill and if the person being prescribed doesn't pay for the drugs–possibly through their own plan our the ODSP [Ontario Disability Support Program], all they have is a $2 dispensing fee, and that might be covered."
Pearce says that's where the issues begin.
"It's a huge problem for us, especially when someone may have a prescription for eight Oxycontin pills a day but they only take two."
Once those "excess" pills are illegally sold–at a street value of $75 a pill–users will tamper with the "slow release" coating, then inject the drug for an immediate high.
For its part, the Ontario government has stepped in with legislation to attack the problem at the source–with the Narcotics Safety and Awareness Act of 2010. Bill 101 is designed to track prescription patterns and alert physicians where there is a problem.
At that point, the doctor, who is not chargeable under the legislation, can choose to either stop or modify the prescription. If no action is taken, the College of Physicians and Surgeons would be alerted for further action.
Other drug issues in the city include the use of methamphetamine and cocaine.