DEA agent provides Placer pill-proliferation-problem solutions

Auburn SIRS group of retirees, semi-retirees gets prescription medication warning, tips
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - What’s in your medicine cabinet?

That was the question a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent said Thursday in Auburn that people – from parents with teens to seniors with an assortment of aches and pains – should be asking themselves.

That medicine cabinet could be stocked with pills no longer needed, that have a shelf life outlived, or that have been overprescribed.
DEA Special Agent Jerry Toms, assigned to the enforcement group at the DEA Sacramento District Office, told Thursday’s Cool 49ers Sons In Retirement meeting that the proliferation of pills – and the problems that ensue – can be handled one medicine cabinet at a time.

Speaking to a group of retired and semi-retired men, Toms said they needed to examine what they have, safely discard what they do not need, and secure what they retain.

“Start with what’s in your medicine cabinet,” Toms said. “You need to start taking seriously that, next to marijuana, abuse of prescription drugs is the largest drug problem in this country, in this society.”

Toms cited a report that showed SIRS grandchildren and great-grandchildren could be susceptible to raiding a member’s medicine cabinet for pain relievers that are sold under trade names such as OxyContin or Vicodin.

Nearly one in five teens has tried prescription medication to get high and one in 10 teens reported abusing cough medicine to get high, the 2006 “Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey” indicated.

“Cancer, heart patients have a lot of medications,” Toms said. “They (teens) are getting it from us because we’re not taking it seriously.”
Toms said prescription medications should be treated like “a valuable object” because of the prices they command on the street market. Vicodin – bought for $1.50 to $2 through a legitimate prescription – sell for $15 to $20 per pill in the criminal underworld. OxyContin pills cost $4 to $6 through legitimate channels but $20 to $30 through drug dealers, he said.

“And if they’re Federal Expressed to Alaska, they sell for $50 to $60 a pill,” Toms said.

Toms said that when he speaks to teens he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about some aspects of prescription medicine, including their availability in many adult medicine cabinets, because they could go home or to a relative’s and steal readily available drugs and get high with them.
And that could prove dangerous.

“Kids have the misconception that it’s prescribed so it must be safe,” Toms said. “They don’t pay attention to written warnings.”

Toms said the DEA and other agencies have safe prescription-drug collections several times a year and the amount of pills being brought in has been staggering. At one collection, DEA agents realized that they had collected $250,000 worth of OxyContin tablets alone, if it were to be sold on the street.

John Keenan, a Sons In Retirement member who attended Toms’ talk, said that he came away with about 30 pamphlets on how teens abuse medicine that he will be offering for distribution at Auburn Lake Trails, the Cool community he lives in.

“I learned that we can do something with the old stuff that we don’t need,” Keenan said. “That you don’t boil it and put it down a hole because that can go into the aquifer.”

What to do?

Take-back programs are the best way to dispose of old drugs. But if a program is not available:


  • Take the meds out of their bottles
  • Mix them with something unappealing such as used kitty litter or coffee grounds
  • Seal them in a bag or disposable container and throw them away

Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency