LAYTON -- Prescription medications have become the most-abused drugs in Utah, so law enforcement officers are exploring better ways to fight the problem.
The Layton Police Department and the Utah Pharmaceutical Drug Crime Project held a training session Thursday dealing with investigations and prosecutions of pharmaceutical drug crimes.
Those crimes include doctor shopping, forged prescriptions and diverting or selling prescriptions and medications.
"The biggest thing is, sometimes these types of cases are fairly complicated and require resources that not everybody is aware of, like the controlled substance database," said Layton Police Lt. Mark Chatlin.
"The class definitely raised awareness for the participants and gave them a number of resources to use in order to help them investigate their crimes more effectively."
The three-hour training was the first of several sessions to be scheduled. Chatlin said 30 people from agencies all along the Wasatch Front attended.
Layton hosted the first training session because of its close ties with the UPDCP.
Police Chief Terry Keefe sits on the executive committee of UPDCP, a public-private, multidisciplinary partnership that involves more than 20 local, state and federal experts.
Those experts are focused on reducing the availability of prescription drugs for abuse, increasing the perception of risk that comes with the drugs as well as helping the public become less tolerant of the nonmedical use of pharmaceutical drugs.
According to useonlyasdirected.org, the number of overdose deaths from prescription pain medication has increased more than 400 percent since 2000.
In 2009, prescription drugs passed cocaine/crack as the fourth-most-abused drug in Utah.
"That's a pretty shocking statistic," said Chatlin, who is currently assigned to the narcotics task force in Davis County.
Chatlin said that, for years, there were no cases dealing with prescription drugs, and now it is a very common thing for the task force to work cases involving pharmaceutical drugs.
He said the general perception is if a drug is prescribed by a doctor, it must be completely safe.
"In some cases, it is, but when those drugs reach the hands of those willing to abuse them or willing to sell them like they would sell marijuana or cocaine or methamphetamine, that's when it becomes a problem."