FBI, DEA targeting 'pill mills' that fuel opioid addiction

LAS VEGAS - Could doctors be the modern day drug dealers?

Some local pain management clinics have caught the attention of the FBI in Las Vegas.

In fact, just days ago U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Nevada as one of 12 states where he will be sending special prosecutors to investigate so-called "pill mills" and pharmacies abusing their power.

It's a dangerous and deadly addiction that often begins with a medical emergency.

"I had a cheerleading accident and I had to get knee surgery," said recovering opioid addict Kelsey Wilson.

Alan Sklenchar, also a recovering opioid addict, has a similar story.

"When I was younger, had an injury at work where I hurt my back."

Both got hooked on painkillers.

"I would run out before my next prescription was due," Sklenchar said.

"Obviously, my tolerance went up and I needed more," Wilson said.

But they didn't turn to their neighborhood dealers, instead they went straight to medical professionals to get their fix.

In Wilson's case, all it took was a scar on her knee to get a prescription.

"I didn't have any MRI's, no X-ray's, nothing. He didn't even feel my knee. He just saw the scar and he said, 'OK,'" she said.

"They wouldn't even look up from their desk, they would just ask me some questions. 'Oh yeah, I'm in pain shooting down my leg.' When I was completely fine," Sklenchar said.

Pain management clinics, often referred to as pill mills, are at the center of a federal effort cracking down on doctors who are over-prescribing.

"Doctors issue out legitimate prescriptions for painkillers every day and we're not talking about them. We are talking about the ones that are all too ready to continue to issue out refills for those prescriptions," said Special Agent Aaron Rouse, FBI, Las Vegas division.

He says agents are investigating pill mills.

"The DEA helps track the number of prescriptions that are being written for opioids and that's a big start and we know through research where a lot of those prescriptions are being written."

According to the DEA, 80 percent of heroin addiction begins with prescription drug abuse as were the cases of Wilson and Sklenchar. Both have now been clean for about three months.

"I wake up and I'm not sick," Sklenchar said.

"I feel amazing," Wilson said.

The FBI and DEA have teamed up to produce  a documentary featuring opioid addicts. It's called "Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict."

In Las Vegas, agents are reaching out to schools in hopes of getting students to watch the 45-minute production.

If you believe there's a pill mill in your neighborhood, you can click on this link to contact the FBI.

Alan Sklenchar received his treatment at Desert Hope. Kelsey Wilson received her treatment at Solutions Recovery.

 


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