Prescription Drug Abuse Leads to Rise in Armed Robberies of Pharmacies

Law enforcement officials are reporting a rise in armed robberies of pharmacies, by drug dealers and people desperate for prescription painkillers, ABC News reports.

There has been an 82 percent increase in pharmacy robberies, from 385 in 2006, to 701 in 2011. During that time, 3,535 pharmacies have been robbed, according to the news report.

In one well-publicized case, a man in search of drugs killed four people in Long Island, New York, in June 2011. He left the pharmacy with a backpack filled with prescription painkillers.

Pharmacy robbers generally are drug dealers looking to make a profit, but some are addicted to drugs and want the pills for themselves. Prescription painkillers can fetch up to $80 a pill on the street.

In response to the robberies, pharmacies are increasing security. They are adding guards and watchdogs, and are storing drugs in safes. Some pharmacists are getting guns to protect themselves, or are refusing to stock certain prescription painkillers.

In January, New York Senator Charles Schumer called for improved security for pharmacies, and longer sentences for pharmacy thefts. In a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration, he said that in Washington State, after time-sensitive safes and staggered inventories were introduced at many drug stores, pharmacy robberies dropped in half from 2008 to 2010.

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