Reporting Shannon Brinias
In 2010, 16 million Americans reported using a prescription drug for non-medical reasons. CBS13 went undercover and found it’s easy to get these drugs on today’s black market. But when you see the effects of misused and abused prescription drugs, you might think twice before taking a pill your doctor didn’t prescribe.
One finger for “yes” and two for “no.” That’s 30-year-old Aaron Rubin’s only way of communicating. He’s a quadriplegic and unable to speak. His mother, Sherrie, says Aaron is trapped in his own body.
“Aaron, do you understand everything that’s going on? One for yes, two for no,” she asked her son. When he puts one finger up, she says, “Yes, he does.”
Aaron used to be able-bodied, healthy and charismatic. Then in 2005 he overdosed on Oxycontin, a narcotic pain killer that can be very addictive. He was 23.
The overdose caused a heart attack, two strokes and a three-week coma. Aaron’s life is now a fight to regain mobility.
“The family dynamics will never be the same. And that’s what saddens me because we were so close,” said Sherrie.
Sherri had no idea her son was battling an addiction to prescription drugs he bought on the streets.
“We are surrounded with the availability of these drugs,” said Sherrie.
Availability is we found at the online open market, Craigslist.
CBS13 went undercover, responding to a Craigslist ad, that said, “have fun in v-ville.” A couple hours later, a CBS13 producer met up with the seller who was unloading generic Viagra for $10 per pill. Generic Viagra isn’t legally sold in the United States. He admitted it came from overseas.
Seller: “England or India,”
Producer: “Is it safe then… or?”
Seller: “Oh, yeah.”
He tried to alleviate our producer’s concerns about the drug’s safety.
Producer: “I’m just worried. I’ve never had anyone take a prescription that we haven’t been given by a doctor before.”
Seller: “Yeah, these are fine.”
After revealing ourselves and our investigation, the seller stands firm behind his mystery pills.
“I’m not really worried about it because you know, like I said, most of the guys, they know what they want. They already know what it is. They’ve already tried it,” he said.
We found Craigslist ads for pain killers like Morphine & Tramadol, and unnamed operations offering a variety of addictive & controlled prescription drugs. Simply call or text and they’ll ship it to you.
In a simultaneous investigation, our sister station in Philadelphia also had no problem finding prescription drugs for sale on craigslist. A seller told their undercover producer he has a business selling male enhancement supplements.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel McConkie has been focusing on drug abuse cases for the past four years.
“We prosecute dealers vigorously,” said McConkie.
He calls people like our Craigslist seller opportunists. But in the end, he says a drug dealer is a drug dealer.
“Many prescription drugs are considered just as dangerous as street drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine and the penalties can be just as high,” said McConkie.
An Oxycontin dealer could face up to 20 years in prison.
“You’re dealing with someone that’s operating illegally and you can’t be certain where the drugs have come from,” said California Pharmacy Board Executive Officer Virginia Herold.
She says getting prescriptions from a licensed pharmacist is the only legal way to go. It’s also the safest. Finding drugs elsewhere could lead to a dangerous reaction and addiction.
“Last year there were more people that died from prescription drug abuse than they did in car accidents,” said Herold.
Sherrie believes it’s a gift that Aaron survived his overdose.
“Many parents cannot hug their children. They buried them,” said Sherrie.
Now the duo is committed to educating others about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.
“Aaron, are you happier now than when you were abusing drugs? One for yes, two for no,” Sherrie asked her son.
He raised one finger for “yes.”
McConkie admits they can’t catch every prescription drug dealer. He says educating people about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs will decrease demand.
He says parents need to talk with their kids, since 90 percent of addictions start in the teenage years. Many of those teens got their pills from friends’ or relatives’ medicine cabinets.