WCBS 880 reporter Irene Cornell is doing an extended series on drug abuse, called Bad Medicine: When Painkillers Kill. The series will run through May 23. Be sure to check cbsnewyork.com for her pieces if you miss them on-air.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Veteran narcotics detectives, accustomed to shutting down heroin mills and tracking cocaine cartels, have had to learn some new tricks, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell On The Story

These days, they find themselves staking out medical clinics on the trail of unscrupulous doctors who pedal powerful painkillers to desperate addicts.

It prompted New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor to create a new investigative unit to deal with this alarming trend, and the violence that goes with prescription drug abuse.

“The cases come in from a variety of ways. We have patients who report doctors for prescribing opiate drugs in bad faith. We have doctors who report patients for doctor shopping. We have doctors reporting doctors, pharmacists reporting patients who present forged prescriptions to pharmacies,” Ryan Sakacs, who heads the unit, told Cornell. “And, unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in complaints from family members of individuals who are addicted to prescription drugs, and have fatally overdosed.”

He said those cases just keep pouring in.

Two million prescriptions were filled in New York City last year for Oxycodone and Vicodin, the equivalent of one prescription for nearly one out of every four residents.

Oxycontin, once known as “Hillbilly Heroin,” has hit the city big time, Cornell reported.

“There really is an epidemic. It’s reached tsunami proportions of prescription opiate abuse,” Dr. Gregory Bunt, medical director at Daytop Village, told Cornell. Daytop Village uses individualized treatment plans to provide professional counseling, medical, social and spiritual attention to drug abusers and their families.

Bunt said he’s seen a significant increase in the number of people being admitted for treatment.

“The number of deaths from drug overdoses is now exceeding the number of deaths related to motor vehicle accidents in the nation,” said Bunt.

How has the abuse of prescription painkillers affected you? Feel free to share your story in the comments section below.

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