Elderly Caught Selling Prescription Drugs

More than 40 people age 60 and over have been caught illegally selling prescription painkillers in Kentucky since April 2004, according to a local anti-drug task force.

The Associated Press reported Dec. 12 that an 87-year-old woman was recently arrested and imprisoned for reselling her prescription drugs for cash.

"When a person is on Social Security, drawing $500 a month, and they can sell their pain pills for $10 apiece, they'll take half of them for themselves and sell the other half to pay their electric bills or buy groceries," said Floyd County jailer Roger Webb. "It used to be a rare occasion to have an elderly inmate. Five years ago it was a rarity."

Experts say the problem may not be limited to Kentucky. "We haven't heard a lot about senior citizens being a source of those drugs," said Erin Artigiani of the University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research. "We know college students do this. It's not much of a stretch to think that seniors could do it, too."

Physician Anita Cornett has heard from formerly addicted patients that they got their drugs from elderly neighbors; now, she randomly drug-tests her patients to make sure they are taking -- not selling -- their medications. Patients also are asked to bring in their prescription bottles so that pills can be counted.