Pharmacies in the San Diego County area have become soft targets of a spate of armed robberies and late night break-ins. These recent robberies occurring in the pharmacies have left both the owners and the authorities perplexed. Gun-wielding people have often been seen barging into chemist shops and running away with stacks of opioids from the shelves.
According to locals and representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the situation is not normal. “The people who work in these pharmacies are just doing their job and lo and behold, someone will come in and stick a gun in their face because they’re seeking opioids,” said Amy Roderick, a special agent with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in San Diego.
The incidents are a cause of concern as 26 pharmacy robberies by gun-toting hoodlums have been reported this year, apart from the 23 night break-ins. In 2015, only six armed robberies and no nighttime break-ins were recorded. However, in 2016, the numbers saw an increase with 17 such robberies and 14 late night break-ins.
Opioids, the sole motive for ransacking
The burglars’ main motive is to run away with as many opioids as they can for their use. Although most of them are addicted to opioids, others aim at getting opiate-containing cough syrups to sell them at high prices in the gray market. These stolen medicines fetch exorbitant prices outside, bringing in good money for the burglars. A cough syrup with Codeine and Promethazine, usually priced at $8 to $12 a bottle in the pharmacy, becomes a high-priced commodity on the street, selling for $500-$800.
Fear psychosis prevails among pharmacy workers
All these incidents not only result in financial losses for the pharmacies, but also cause fear psychosis among pharmacy workers. Chances of getting hurt or coming in the line of fire as the robbers vandalize shops are quite high, with workers fearing for their lives.
Pharmacy pillaging not limited to San Diego County
Incidents of pharmacy robbing have been reported from other places as well, where perpetrators go on a rampage, looting opioids and other addictive drugs from these shops.
In a similar incident, police are looking for a man for allegedly robbing a Walgreens pharmacy in Danville, Costa County, in the 600 block of San Ramon Valley Boulevard, in October 2017. The armed suspect, who wore a surgical mask, fled after the incident and is still at large. The police are now seeking help from citizens to identify and apprehend the culprit.
Releasing a statement, town officials said that the suspected male robber entered the store and headed to the pharmacy area, where he brandished a pistol and handed the clerk a note demanding prescription medication. “After receiving an undisclosed amount of prescription drugs, the suspect grabbed other items and fled the store,” the statement read.
A similar armed pharmacy robbery was reported in October 2017 from Downtown Menlo Park, where a man in his fifties entered a pharmacy and demanded two bottles of alprazolam or Xanax. The person then lifted his shirt to reveal a handgun hidden in his waistband to the person attending to him. The petrified employee complied with his demand, after which, the person immediately left the pharmacy and is still at large.
Opioid dependence has become a menace
A closer look at all these incidents concurs that the opioid crisis has indeed reached an epidemic level. Looking at the situation, President Donald Trump has termed it the “worst drug crisis in American history.”
While the drug overdose deaths continue to rise in the United States, a majority of them are related to opioids, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioid-induced overdose deaths (including prescription opioids and heroin) have quadrupled in the country since 1999. The situation has reached a point where 91 Americans lose their lives every day to an opioid overdose.
Recovery from opioid addiction
Addiction to any substance is a scourge, which can be fatal if not intervened at the earliest. Rather than bemoaning when it is too late, one should seek treatment at the earliest for long-term recovery.
San Clemente-based Sovereign Health offers evidence-based treatment for addiction, where one can gain lasting recovery. If you or a loved one is grappling with an addiction, call our 24/7 helpline for information on treatment for drug addiction in California. You can even chat with our experts, to know more about drug addiction rehab in California and other parts of the U.S.
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