NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — In the wake of last week’s deadly shootings at a Medford pharmacy, Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the federal government to do more to fight prescription drug abuse.

On Sunday, Schumer said that the abuse of prescription narcotics is reaching levels not seen since the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s.

“Once they become crazed, as you say, and they need these drugs they do lots of bad things,” said Schumer. “We’re trying to stop them from getting to that stage.”

Armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says. Nearly 2,800 drug store robberies occurred across the country since 2006, and the abuse of pain killers was up 400-percent in the past decade.

WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reports: Schumer Says Tougher Penalties, More Education Needed To Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

“This is out of control man. I don’t know what the situation is. I guess people are hard up for money or whatever,” Art Citran of Medford told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.

“Yeah this is terrifying. It’s right around the corner from me. It’s just crazy. It happened again,” said Lauren Wexler of Farmingville.

“It’s an epidemic,” said Michael Fox, a pharmacist on Staten Island who has been stuck up twice in the last year. “These people are depraved. They’ll kill you.”

Schumer said tougher penalties are needed to help combat prescription drug abuse and pharmacy robberies.

“We make the penalties for robbing pharmacies for these drugs not just an ordinary theft, but much more severe,” he said. “That would, A, when the criminals are caught they’re going to stay in jail a longer time and B, be a deterrent.”

Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Memonidies Medical Center, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, says pharmaceutical companies helped create the problem when they started pushing doctors to prescribe powerful painkillers to patients.

“Physicians were misinformed about the risks and believe it or not, were taught that these medications were not addictive if patients have legitimate pain,” said Kolodny. “That’s not true and now we have a severe epidemic across the country.”

The number of pills stolen nationwide went from 706,000 to 1.3 million. Thieves are overwhelmingly taking oxycodone painkillers like OxyContin or Roxicodone, or hydrocodone-based painkillers like Vicodin and Norco. Both narcotics are highly addictive.

Police in Suffolk County said they found 11,000 hydrocodone pills inside the Medford basement apartment of David Laffer and his wife Melinda Brady.

Laffer is accused of killing four people on Father’s Day at Haven Pharmacy in Medford. Police say he shot and killed a pharmacist, a 17-year-old store employee and two customers before filling a backpack with prescription drugs. Police say his wife drove the getaway car.

LINK: Read The Felony Complaint Against Melinda Brady

Killed were 45-year-old pharmacist Raymond Ferguson 17-year-old store clerk Jennifer Mejia, 71-year-old Bryon Sheffield and 33-year-old Jamie Taccetta.

Police said Laffer and Brady were “obviously under the influence” of narcotics when they were arrested on Wednesday.

Laffer is being held without bail on first-degree murder charges. Brady is being charged with robbery and obstruction, but more charges may be added when a grand jury convenes Monday. A judge set her bail at $750,000 cash or a $1.5 million bond. Both Laffer and Brady have pleaded not guilty.

It’s unclear if all the hydrocodone pills police say they found in their apartment came from Haven pharmacy.

PHOTOS: Haven Drugs Pharmacy Massacre

Assistant District Attorney John Collins called the shootings “the most cold-blooded robbery-homicide in Suffolk County history.”

The Medford pharmacy massacre is one of the reasons why Schumer is pushing legislation to address overprescribing of the drugs. He is co-sponsoring legislation introduced in by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., that would require doctors to participate in specialized training to prescribe Oxycontin, Vicodin and other opiate-based narcotics. The training would help doctors better identify patients vulnerable to addiction.

What do you think about the proposed legislation? Do you think it will help? Sound off below in our comments section…

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