The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

June 18, 2014

Police train to combat drug abuse

Officers from all over the region say they make sure to stay sharp in their training, especially when it comes to drugs. Officers gathered at the University of Charleston’s Beckley Campus on Tuesday to learn more about prescription drugs and what they can do to help with the prescription drug problem in the area.

“This event is coordinated with Beckley Police, FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association and Purdue Pharma,” Purdue Associate Director Edward Cartwright said. “Purdue Pharma provides the instructors such as myself.

“We have law enforcement liaisons who are paid to go out and provide training for free for police departments. The background for the instructors are that we are retired narcotics detectives around the country. Each of us has a history and have worked prescription drug crimes in our previous careers.”

Cartwright said the training focuses on everything from “doctor shopping” to identification.

“A lot of the issues have to do with obtaining prescription drugs illegally as far as someone making their own illegal prescription, someone altering their prescription, or someone phoning in and going to multiple physicians for the same drug,” he said.

“In the morning we start with prescription drug identification and go through each of the pills that are most commonly abused and teach the legitimate use of the drug and the illegal use of the drug so when the officers find those drugs, they can ask the right questions and make the determination whether that drug was obtained illegally or not.”

Cartwright said the biggest thing that will help in the war on drugs is education for everyone.

“One of the most important things we emphasize is protecting drugs while at home,” he said. “Many teenagers first initiation into the drug world is through prescription drugs because they're right in their own home. We encourage officers to educate the public to lock their medicines up.

“Don't make them so available that people can access them. If someone finds drugs, they should refer it over to the local police and get it turned in. They should be careful when they handle it because some drugs can seep in through the skin.”

Prescribers and legislators need to be educated too, Cartwright said.

“Prescribers need to make sure they understand how these drugs can be abused, but at they same time they need to know how to recognize a legitimate patient versus a drug-seeking patient,” he said. “It's about education on everyone's part.

“Legislators have to support the fight against prescription drug abuse, too. Legislators need to recognize that some of the laws are very important and that those laws stay on the books and the new laws are applied properly. There are laws pertaining to doctor shopping. There are laws about making up prescriptions. There are laws for physicians that practice outside the scope of the law.”

Cartwright said no one should be afraid to become more educated about drug issues.

“Don't be afraid to ask questions,” he said. “Talk to those in health care and the officers who have to deal with these drug issues on a daily basis. We encourage the public to educate themselves.”

Beckley Police Chief Lonnie Christian said Lt. Jake Corey sets up the training every year and makes sure officers are as educated as possible.

“He's done this for about the past three years,” Christian said. “This is a really good program. Any time we can provide quality training to law enforcement officers, it's a positive thing. Officers like to get good, useful training that they can use every day. This is one of the most beneficial classes we can offer.

“We do try to help educate the public. We actually have school resource officers who go into the schools. We have K9 officers who go into the schools and give talks, too.

“We have the officer field program that we run a couple of times during the year and talk at the schools through that. Any time we can talk to the community or to the schools, we take the time to do that.”

Purdue Pharma is a privately held pharmaceutical company that was founded by a group of physicians.

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com

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