Published Date Written by Craig LyonsA group of Maine police officers went back to school on Thursday and spent the day learning about how to better deal with prescription drug abuse and trafficking.
Purdue Pharma L.P, FBI-LEEDA and the Portland Police Department hosted the full-day training for 95 officers from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts on Thursday.
"Abuse of prescription medicine is dangerous and problematic, as with any illicit drug. Law enforcement and community members need to join forces to fight this crime," said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, in a statement. "Training seminars like this one are geared toward further educating the men and women who are fighting hard to keep drugs out of the hands of people who choose to abuse them. Education is an essential tool in tackling the growing problem of prescription drug abuse."
Purdue Pharma L.P. and FBI-LEEDA hold about 12 of these training sessions around the country annually.
Ed Cartwright, Purdue's associate director and law enforcement liaison and education, said Purdue Pharma hired five former narcotics investigators who offer free training to local agencies across the country to offer insight into handling prescription medication abuse. He said the training shows officers the resources that are available to help them with prescription medication-related investigations.
Most officers are familiar with street drugs but don't have a strong grasp on pharmaceutical medications and how they affect users.
The Northeast is an area where prescription drug diversion is prevalent, said Tom Stone, executive director of FBI-LEEDA, so it's important that law enforcement officers have an understanding how drugs are being misused, where they are coming from and information about the types of drugs that are being sold, in order to better combat the problem.
Cartwright said it's a misconception that street drugs are more widely available and less dangerous than medications.
"Pharmaceutical drugs are the most abused," he said.
Stone said the pharmaceutical drug market is changing rapidly and it's tough for officers to learn all the schedules and what the drugs do, without proper training.
Cartwright said while it's important to understand the signs related to the abuse of the drugs, officers need to know how to identify if someone is using the prescription medication properly.
"We teach the balance between the two," he said.
Officers need to be able to distinguish between someone who is using a medication appropriate and legally versus someone who is not.
Aside from the illicit trafficking of prescription medication, Stone said, the training talks about the counterfeit drug market. He said there's a large market for fake lifestyle drugs, like Viagra and Cialis, that are made in Central America.
Stone said the training teaches officers how to analyze the counterfeit drugs and track the sale of the pills.
A big component of the training is that it brings medical professionals, attorneys and law enforcement officers together in the same room, Stone said, and talking about drug investigations to better address the problem.