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Drug unit chief outlines illegal drug use in area

According to officials, meth, marijuana and alcohol are not the only ways people are getting high. Along with abuse of prescription pain medications, people also use “Spice,” which is artificial marijuana sold as bath salts, as seen in these pictures.

According to officials, meth, marijuana and alcohol are not the only ways people are getting high. Along with abuse of prescription pain medications, people also use “Spice,” which is artificial marijuana sold as bath salts, as seen in these pictures.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The most abused drugs in this area are prescription drugs, according to Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit Maj. Bill Berry.

"Our biggest problem right now is prescription pain pills," Berry said. "A great portion of our arrests are for prescription pain pills."

Berry was the speaker at Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard's first monthly town hall meeting of 2012 Saturday at 1721 E. Oglethorpe Blvd. Howard asked Berry to speak on youth and drugs.

The pain pill problem, the abuse of prescription pills such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, is partially driven by the profit motive, Berry said.

"The street price is $2 a gram. So if I have 60 30- gram pills, I can make some money because the prescription costs a lot less," Berry said.

The website pharmacychecker.com states that a Vicodin with 5 grams of the active painkiller can be bought for $1.56. Using Berry's $2 a gram street price, that pill could turn an $8.44 profit.

The demand is so great that Berry said dealers from this area are going to pain clinics in Florida claiming back pain and stocking up. Their stock is then sold in the area.

One woman in Albany did not have to travel far to do her pill shopping. Berry said that before his agents caught her, she was pill shopping at five pharmacies in Albany with prescriptions.

"Whenever we bust someone for meth or marijuana," Berry said, "there are usually some sort of prescription pain pills around."

Berry said there is another drug that has made a strong entry into the area. Recently outlawed in Georgia, certain bath salts are being sold as Spice or K-2. The illegal salts mimic the effects of marijuana when smoked.

Legitimate chain stores don't sell bath salts that have been treated to become Spice. Berry said the naming and 2-gram packaging of Spice are dead giveaways that it is meant to be used to get high.

No one would pour the equivalent in size of an artificial sweetener pack from a restaurant of bath salts in a tub, Berry noted, adding that amount wouldn't do anything, while smoking the 2-gram sized Spice "Zombie World" or "Nightmare Revisited" could result in a marijuana-like high.

According to the website drugfree.org, the physical signs of use are very troubling. They include "increased agitation, profuse sweating, pale skin or vomiting."

"But what may be of the greatest concern is the loss of physical control, a kind of brain-body disconnect, the website says. "This is where you may see seizures, a lack of pain response or uncontrolled/spastic body movements."

The use of Spice is difficult to prove, and it takes time for a laboratory to analyze the powder, Berry said.

"I don't care how much CSI you watch," he said, "it takes time."

Many in the meeting's audience, if not all 30, were shocked to learn that drinking alcohol isn't the way many youths are using to get drunk.

Berry explained that to avoid the telltale smell of alcohol on the breath, young people are inserting balloons or condoms filled with alcohol into their rectums.

The perennial drug threats of cocaine, crack and marijuana will not be displaced by the prescription drugs and synthetic marijuana, Berry said, but his agents will continue the fight against drugs with the help of the community.

"I just would like to remind you that whatever the problem is, we rely on you calling us to report what is going on," Berry said. "We want the community to call us."

The Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit's number is (229) 430-5150.