The latter part of the 1990s showered a good deal of attention to prescription drug diversion, the illegal channeling of regulated medicine. Despite this recent awareness, this issue is by no way new. It has been happening since the early 1960s and as the world grew older, the part of the population wanting to use illegal drugs increased. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, the number of users grew from 600,000 in the 1990s to 2.4million in 2004.

Illegal drug diversion is a big business. It is a multi-billion dollar empire. The diversion of drugs branches out in a lot of various media that start from the manufacturer, wholesale distributing, to doctors office, drugstore and even the patient. There are various ways of obtaining it including pilferage, fraud on prescription, illegal cross-border transactions and just plain old dealer transactions are amongst the many ways. This paper examined the result of national diversion survey conducted by several non-profit healthcare organizations.

There are 300 diversion investigators across America that is the scope of the survey. Despite large number of police departments in the country, only a few are focused on drug diversion. The objective of the survey is to determine the extent to which some certain drugs are diverged and to recognize some signal sites with the help of the police and other law-enforcing bodies. Of course the researchers agree that there are limitations in their data-gathering processes.

From January 2002 to December 2006, there was a 72 response rate from the participating law enforcement bodies that the survey employed. From this period, 64,655 drug related cases were identified and started, and more often than not, more than one type of drug were involved in each investigation. Hydrocodone was found to be the most diverted drug, followed by oxycodone, methadone, morphine and fentanyl. The diversion of the drugs was reported more often in New England, New York, the Midwest, Appalachian Region and Florida than in the other regions within the USA. It is also interesting to note that the rural areas of New England and the Appalachian region had more cases of high concentration diversion.

Hydrocodone and oxycodone belongs to the family of opioid pain relievers that has a widely documented case of abuse throughout the nation. As for the concentration of diversion in rural areas, it could be the sampling techniques of the survey that contributed to it simply because most participating law enforcement bodies were found in the rural areas. Many big cities did not participate in the survey, not because of willingness, but because that there is actually no police personnel specifically in-charge of drug diversion. It is hard, at the moment, to outright declare that there is the rural area is more prone to drug divergence. Even so, there are number of factors that would indicate such is the scenario. There are a lot of documentations that say that the rural community has a preference for OxyContin, first becoming popular in rural Maine and soon spreading across the East Coast. Many of the rural areas are isolated, mostly mountainous in their topography and usually very distant to public highways. People do not have access to street drugs so they use what are on hand  prescription drugs. The population has more older people, suffering from different illnesses from blue collar professions that require prescription painkillers that can get addictive.

Another discussion made is the media how divergence happens. Many experts claim that a main medium is the practicing doctors issuing inappropriate prescriptions. Internet sales are also discovered to be a major medium. Though physicians and the internet are culprits, one can never discount wholesale purchase of prescription drugs as a culprit since studies show that voluminous amount of the drugs end up in the hands of dealers.


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