Calgary Prescription Drug Offences Could See a Spike

Calgary Police and Crown prosecutors might soon see a rise in drug offences involving the illegal possession or abuse of certain prescription drugs, but not because offences are necessarily occurring at a higher rate.

The regulators in control of Alberta's system for monitoring prescription drugs are expanding the province's triplicate prescription program, which is used by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to track certain prescriptions and identify instances of abuse.

Already tracking fentanyl, the program will now also track prescription rates for prescription painkillers containing codeine, and the class of anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines (found in name-brand pharmaceuticals like Valium and Ativan).

"That will make it even more robust because there are a lot of drugs in those two categories that are open to abuse and misuse," said college spokeswoman Kelly Eby.

Calgary Police Deputy Chief Trevor Daroux stressed that law enforcement efforts will focus on drug traffickers and those responsible for putting pills in the hands of drug abusers, while drug abusers themselves will be addressed through educational and public health initiatives.

"This isn't a problem that can be solved by any single discipline," said Daroux.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials also cited concerns that organized crime could be behind many illegal sales of otherwise legal drugs, with Staff Sgt, Martin Schiavetta of the Calgary Police drug unit citing the substantial profit margins that exist for organizations that are able to obtain legally prescribed drugs and sell them on the street.

Whether the higher level of attention to drug trafficking in prescription drugs will result in lower rates of abuse amongst Calgary's citizens remains an open question.