ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Prescription drug abuse is our nation's fastest growing drug problem. Chances are you know someone who is addicted to prescription drugs. Many people go to great lengths to make sure they have those pills, even if it involves going doctor to doctor to get enough pills to support the habit.
A few months ago 23-year-old Anna Smith appeared to be just another college student at the University of Georgia, But instead of partaking in college activities, she spent most of her time doctor shopping.
"We decided the easiest place to go doctor shopping was Florida," she said.
She and a her friends thought up elaborate plans on how to get as many prescriptions possible from doctors across the state. "I funded it and I drove and they went into the doctor's office and did what they needed to do," said Smith.
They traveled from Tallahassee to Fort Lauderdale visiting multiple doctors in an attempt to obtain as many prescriptions as possible. "I was even surprised sometimes with the amount they would walk out with."
Gwen Lacey shopped for doctors too, she says thanks to the internet and word of mouth she knew exactly who to go to. "I knew how to manipulate the doctors to get what I wanted."
Both women said they went to doctors who would prescribe massive amounts of pills at once. "I've seen some dentist prescribe patients 30 hydrocondone," Lacey said.
"In the last eight months, she's had over 100 prescriptions filled," said Dr. Robert Lane, owner of Colquitt Dental Care.
Lane says he doesn't prescribe any medication unless he sees a patient in his office. "I think a lot of time if one pill addict finds out you don't prescribe I think the word gets out and they stop."
And only prescribes enough to get them to their next appointment.He's seen patients go to great lengths to obtain medication. "I had a patient call me on the weekend and told me that she had a tooth ache, came up to the office and found out she had no teeth, she had actually taken a razor blade and cut her gums to make it look like there was a root or something in there," Lane said.
"I have friends who would go and get their teeth pulled just to get the medicine," Lacey said.
"They were using MRI's that were falsified, it seemed just so easy," Anna Smith said.
"I've actually caught someone forging my prescription for Methadone," said the dentist.
But how does a doctor distinguish between who is really in pain and who is seeking drugs? "If they say they are in dire pain, you can take their blood pressure if their blood pressure is normal you know they are faking," Lane said.
Dr. Lane watches out for sign to help make that distinction, like patients who don't make appointments, patients who travel in from out of state and patients who target new doctors.
"The first day we opened, we got a drug seeker, who totally caught us by surprise," said Dr. John Tran of Bainbridge Family Dentistry.
But soft tissue injuries are harder to diagnose. Georgia is one of eight states without a statewide database that helps monitor prescription drug use. So for now, some Doctors rely on word of mouth to help keep pill addicts at bay.
"If I call a prescription in, the pharmacy will tell me they are getting quite a bit of pain medicine and they have been flagged," said Lane.
Last year there were 508 drug overdose deaths in Georgia involving prescription drugs.
If you need help or you know someone needs help fighting their own addiction, here are some outside resources that may be helpful: