Atlanta (CNN) — A pharmacy tech who makes $12 an hour but drives a Mercedes. A rumor that a pharmacist may be trading sex for drugs. A prescription note with handwriting that’s a little too easy to read.
The Drug Enforcement Administration in Atlanta says all of these scenarios should leave pharmacy workers suspicious of illegal activity at their store. And they hope pharmacy employees — or anyone, for that matter — will report such activity to its new prescription drug abuse tip line.
The agency launched an initiative, TIP411, this week to allow the public to quickly and anonymously report suspicious activity. Tipsters can text TIP411, or 847-411, and then use the keyword PILLTIP. The message will be forwarded to a DEA agent who will investigate.
Georgia is one of the first states in the country to try the texting effort. The city of Philadelphia is also experimenting with the program. Agents hope it will become a successful weapon to fight the war on prescription drug abuse, a war they feel they are losing.
“It really is out of control here,” said Rick Allen, director of the Georgia Drug and Narcotics Agency.
Prescription drug abuse is a national epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Overdose rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990, and prescription drugs are to blame for a number of those deaths.
The rise in overdoses parallels a 300% increase in the sale of strong opioid painkillers since 1999. In 2008,prescription pain pills actually killed more people than all those who died from taking cocaine or heroin.