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SBI says theft of prescription drugs up 25 percent in recent years

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NEW BERN, N.C. -

It's no secret burglars like to steal money, weapons, and electronics. But these days they're also interested in taking your prescription medications.

The North Carolina Department of Justice says theft of prescription drugs is up statewide.

"The SBI's Drug Diversion Unit estimates that such thefts [prescription drug thefts from homes and businesses] are up at least 25% here over the last few years," said public information officer Noelle Talley of the NCDOJ.

Lenoir County Sheriff Chris Hill says the growing problem of prescription drug abuse is likely producing this trend.

"Back then, 20 years ago, it was money, guns, and TVs. And now, one of the primary things being stolen is prescription drugs," said Hill.

Oftentimes the people who steal the drugs either use them to get a fix, or sell them on the black market.

"I can't tell you how much they're being sold for, but we know there are people who are doctor shopping and who are selling their medications," said Hill.

Pamlico County resident Christina Dykins takes eight pills a day for her high blood pressure and thyroid problems. She's not surprised about the trend, but she's concerned.

"I don't want someone violating my home," she said.

So here are some tips from law enforcement and pharmacists to keep your meds safe:
•    Avoid telling people what medicines you're taking and in what quantity.
•    Hide your medication in a place only trusted family members know.
•    Avoid obvious storage places like medicine cabinets.
•    Drop off unused medication in medicine drops.
•    Don't flush them down the toilet or throw them in the trash.

"Your safety is first and foremost, so if it's not there, then there's no opportunity," said Trey Paul, a pharmacy manager at Realo Discount Drugs in New Bern.

Paul says new laws might help.

"After the first of the year, we have to report a drug transaction every three days. It's going to help deter people from getting multiple prescriptions in multiple places," said Paul.

Hill says painkillers like percocet and oxycontin are prime targets for theft. He believes as long as there are people who abuse prescription drugs, there will be people who steal them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say about 12 million American teens and adults reported using prescription painkillers to get "high" or for other non-medical reasons.

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