NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With prescription drug abuse reaching epidemic proportions, police say there’s a new face of drug dealing; the elderly.

As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez found out, senior pill pushers are increasingly getting caught selling their own stash.

“This girl came to me and said that, ‘I hear you got some pills,” Laura Viehdeffer said.

So 85-year-old Viehdeffer said she gave her a couple.

“I felt sorry for her,” she said.

The girl was actually an undercover police officer in upstate New York. The pills — which she bought for $10 a piece — were the powerful opioid hydrocodone which Viehdeffer took for arthritis pain.

“I was just trying to help somebody out,” she said.

The authorities didn’t quite see it that way, and now Viehdeffer is the oldest person in her county ever charged with drug dealing.

“If someone is selling drugs, narcotics, to someone else without a prescription, that is in fact illegal,” Steve Chassman said.

Increasingly, experts say the ‘someone selling’ is a senior citizen.

“It’s not uncommon to see people 55 and older, who receive monthly medications, selling some on the street or to people they know,” Chassman said.

Chassmanis with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

“A 30 milligram of oxycodon can go for $30 and if you get a 90 day supply, do the math. That’s significant,” he said.

Especially significant to someone living on a fixed income.

Their mugshots tell the tale; 81-year-old Arthur Cox was busted for selling $1,000 wort of his painkiller dilaudid.

Tina Robin White, 59, was pinched for selling her oxycodone and 91-year-old Archie Bethea was busted for peddling a variety of his prescriptions on the street.

“Our medicine cabinet is something we have to worry about,” Angelo Valente.

Each week at community centers the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is showing up to teach seniors about the dangers of opioid addiction.

Executive Director Angelo Valente is hopeful there will be less of a demand for these drugs now that states like New Jersey are limiting a patient’s initial prescription to a five day supply — down from 30, as well as requiring all doctors to explain the risks of dependency.

“It makes common sense,” Valente said.

Viehdeffer said her case is a big misunderstanding.

“I’m not a drug dealer,” she said.

Still, a judge sentenced her to five years’ probation.

Experts said tougher sentences could curtail seniors from selling their prescriptions, but local and federal prosecutors are sometimes reluctant to even charge them because of their age

Comments (39)
  1. So, CBS, are you *trying* to drive people away with the auto-refresh every 60 seconds?

  2. Rick Boc says:

    NYPD, setting up senior citizens, MY HEROS..Meanwhile seniors will suffer .

  3. Back in May, I had an accident and broke both ankles plus fractured one of my feet. The doctor offered a prescription for painkillers. I asked, “are these opioids”? He said “yes”. So, I said “no thanks”. The doctor left the room and a technician who was present said: “you can sell easily those”. The glare I gave him ended the conversation.

  4. Pops Frost says:

    Yeah, we need a DEA agent in the room with every doctor to approve and then limit the supply of painkillers. Who better to oversee our healthcare than the our big brothers at DEA?

  5. When will you all wake up and realize the reality of what’s happening here? By cutting off opioids, a nation of junkies was created. Until we DECRIMINALIZE and put money into education and TREATMENT over incarceration and punishment, the situation will continue to become worse and worse. The “War on Drugs” needs to go the ways of the dinosaurs, ASAP.

  6. Gerald Mucci says:

    And why would we be surprised. The druggies of the 60’s are the seniors of today.

    1. Read the article: some of these seniors are described as being in their eighties and nineties. These are not all children of the sixties.

  7. Connor Steve says:

    the elderly and traumatic/cancer related injuries or disease is the only reason to prescribe opiates. Arthritis and chronic pain is very hard for the elderly to be active or mobile. this opiate craze to describe it as epidemic and we ought to ban it, is over the top, the pendulum swinging the opposite way (as usual)

  8. If someone is selling their scrip(s) they don’t NEED it. I weaned myself off of a muscle relaxant and pain med I’d been taking for ten years. I’ll live with the pain and cancel the scrip at my next annual checkup in Oct. I don’t care what age a person is, if they’re selling scrip meds they need to live with the consequences when caught.

  9. Busting an 85 year old woman for selling three pills to a UC officer who probably entrapped her, what a total waste of our public safety resources! Go out and bust some REAL criminals you cowards!

    1. Arresting those selling the drugs is also a shot against the addicts who will break into your house or sell their bodies to fund their habits.

      In that dynamic, the age of the pusher is of no importance.

  10. Larry Smith says:

    The old lady is so full of sheet…maybe I would buy her BS if she were not SELLING the pills

  11. Pete Wagner says:

    Legal marijuana solves this and so much more.

  12. The war on drugs has always been a guise for a war on the poor.

    1. Don’t buy, don’t sell, don’t use — i.e., nothing objectively outrageous — and this alleged “oppression” is entirely evaded.

  13. Kim Jernigan says:

    This is not new. Elderly people have been selling their meds for many years around here. Not enough social security money to last thru the month so they sell their meds to pay their other bills. They don’t push it either. People want to buy and seek them out.

    1. Said as if they have no complicity in their allegedly dire situations.

      Weren’t they expected to prepare for their retirement? Do they not have family, friends, a church they can rely upon? And can they not be greeters at Walmart?

      No, apparently selling their extra pain pills is the only option available to these sad sacks.

      You are all expressing sympathy for people illicitly selling prescription medications they obviously don’t need — drugs paid for by taxpayers and legitimate users of insurance — and gaming the system in the process.

      And they are simultaneously driving the opioid addiction in the larger community — and all the crime and despair which comes with it!

      So look — legalize *all* drugs for all I care. But don’t pretend these people are angels. Grow up.

  14. Don Steele says:

    The Prescription drug “epidemic” as the Govt and the FAKE NEWS puts it…is NOTHING more than a ploy to get more people UNDER Govt control…and push the Govt endorsed HEROIN we have been protecting in Afghanistan for all these year.

  15. How do amateur eighty- and ninety-year-olds sell any drug illicitly without being robbed by the younger, professional hustlers?

  16. Gene Easley says:

    Sad, because the one who really need the pain killers like my 79 year old mother are having a heck of a time gettting their prescription. In my mother’s case non-opiod pain killers just don’t do the job, they don’t kill the pain.

  17. “I’m not a drug dealer,” she said.

    Yeah … you kind of were.

  18. They’re going to increase illegal drug use now because people with chronic daily pain like myself will have no other recourse. This is just plainly stupid to punish everyone.

  19. Wal Man says:

    If you had said “Doctors: The new face of drug dealing.” you would have been on the mark. It’s the pharmaceutical companies that are pushing the drugs and the doctors are there mules.

  20. Don’t they have a spell check there in New York? Come on. I saw at least two glaring mistakes and wasn’t looking.

  21. Everyone knows this is where you buy pain medicine. $1 per milligram.

  22. got to protect those political contributions by big pharma

  23. Adam Peter says:

    what a suprise the pathetic fools that we know as police have nothing better to do than to run a sting operation on an 85 year old woman.

  24. Oh this is patently ridiculous and absolutely a pathetic example of law enforcement. If you’re going to go after drug dealers, take out the cartels, and M13, not some elderly lady. Oh, but you just want an easy target, build up your arrests and your conviction record. This is no different than some thug beating up an elderly person, then stealing from them. DISGUSTING!

    btw, I don’t use drugs of any kind, including prescription. So I guess you can’t arrest me, unless you plant the drugs on me.

  25. iodiner says:

    There are folks who live with debilitating daily chronic pain, and this current opioid hysteria may be jeopardizing their ability to receive what they need to get through a day. I feel sorry for seniors who rely on pain medication but are unable to get the help they need. These drugs have helped more people than they’ve hurt.

    1. Susan Borden says:

      Thank you. I ‘m a senior and have been using a non-narcotic, no euphoria and no side effects (except pain relief) drug and I can’t get it from any doctor any longer because of their hysteric fear of anything for pain relief. Thanks government.

    2. It is too bad that those of us who use our prescription of Hydrocodone or Oxicodone responsibly, are being penalized for those who abuse their perscription. I have been on hydrocodone for 8 years for a degenrative condition of the neck, which could not be helped with other alternatives. I had a Rysotomy and to no avail, plus other pain medication, but none of them helped the severe neck pain and chronic headaches I suffered due to the neck pain. I was normally a person who did not even like to take asprin for head aches, but the pain got to be too great, and the headaches went from once a year to every single day. Hydrocodone gave my good quality of life back to me. I am able to function and have a productive life. My doctor is responsible in prescribing my medication. All these years I have only taken three pills in a 24 hour period. My doctor has a narcotics contract with me and my pharmacist keeps tabs on when I call my hydrocodone perscription in, and they will not fill it earlier, which prevents abuse of this narcotic. I have also never attempted to look to get more of this opioid elsewhere and abuse it. I take it, because it gives me a good quality of life and relief from severe pain. I have never experienced the high that people who are addicted and abuse. I do not like the initial side effects as it makes me drowsy, but I give myself two hours to lay down and get over the drowsiness, and one cup of caffein helps as well. I find that people who get addicted like the woman in your story had some emotional issues they were not addressing prior to starting an opioid, and it helps create a person with an addictive personality. Because my doctor is being pressured by the medical professionals who stereotype all opioid users as abusers, she is considering taking me off of my medication after 8 years of being on it, and after 8 years of having a good quality of life restored to me. Pushers even seniors should be dealt with to the fullest extent of the laws

  26. Maybe if they stopped paying retired millionaire Social Security every month and instead used the money to increase the monthly checks ($750.00 on average) of poorer senior citizens they wouldn’t have a need to sell their medications for a little extra money.

  27. victimless crimes. I guess its too hard to catch real criminals.

  28. A lot safer and easier than busting violent drug dealing gang members.

  29. Doug Day says:

    Hydrocodone is NOT a powerful opioid…that would be oxycodone or fentanyl., dumbass. Do some minimal research before you try to slip it by your “editor”.

  30. Joey Trump says:

    way to go arresting a 85yo woman. i feel so much safer,

  31. The people who ought to be charged are the M.D.’s who overprescribed for these seniors who obviously didn’t need all these drugs (or they wouldn’t be selling them).

    1. Here’s the deal: people on fixed or lower incomes often can’t afford even cheap rent, much less food. They risk their longer-term lives and quality of life by selling the prescriptions they need on a daily basis (to deal with chronic illness and chronic pain) in order to pay the rent, the electric and phone, and to have enough to eat. One reason they are able to do this AT ALL is that the cost of medication is unnecessarily high, and most healthcare plans significantly subsidize the patient’s payment (making them “affordable” in the first place.) Unless we incarcerate these people in nursing homes (where there are even more quality-of-life and healthcare issues) or force them to come in daily for their medications (for which they may not be able to afford the transportation, or for which said transportation is not available at the appropriate times – or not available AT ALL), there will be this sort of tradeoff.
      If these medications were readily available in pharmacies at a reasonable price, the market for drug resale would bottom out. That said, it might force more lower-income and elderly into homelessness.

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