More news from the Tough Times in America front. Yesterday, I became aware of a new demographic of drug dealer: seniors, the disabled or down-and-outers who sell their prescription drugs to supplement their meager incomes.
The nurse discharging my mom from a skilled nursing facility near Rossmoor told us about how patients can potentially make $5 or more per pain pill they have received legally from their doctors. She didn’t talk as though any of her patients had been doing this, and she certainly wasn’t recommending this course of action to my mom, who, by the way, had been in the facility for the past five days, recovering beautifully from a fall that broke a couple ribs.
The nurse was only sharing news about growing concerns that older people, including Medicaid patients, are parting with their prescription pain and anti-anxiety pills — including powerful narcotics like Norco (also known as Vicodin), Percoset or Oxycontin. These drugs wind up in the hands of regular dealers who in turn sell them to teens and others who use them for recreational use or to satisfy their addictive cravings.
Most of the news stories on the so-called Granny Pill Pushers focus on folks in economically challenged areas like Appalachia or San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, where, according to a 2010 story in the SF Bay Citizen, “prescription drug sales have tripled over the past decade and now comprise a third of drug-related arrests.”
The Bay Citizen furthermore says that “veteran dealers buy a bottle of pills for about $1,000 and make up to $5,000 in re-sales.” The customers are “self-medicators” who can’t obtain prescriptions through legal means and out-of-towners, including teens: “There’s more young kids driving in from the South Bay and the North Bay who just want to get high,” a police officer told the Bay Citizen. “They’re dressed like yuppies and they’re milling around talking to people that I know for a fact sell pills.”
Maybe the 1 in 4 residents of affluent Walnut Creek who are 65 and older are well-fixed enough that they don’t have to sell their prescription drugs to, say, buy food or pay their phone bills. On the other hand, I’ve met my share of older people locally who are struggling to make ends meet on Social Security and whatever small pensions they have. Walnut Creek is not an easy place to live if you’re old and poor. Let’s hope no one around here needs to resort to selling their medication to get by.