The Drug Courier Profile Morphs and Returns to the Mountains

November 24 2004, 8:39 AM

If you've got to be sick somewhere, just hope it's not in Summit County. The old and widely discredited "drug courier profile" is rearing its empty head again, this time to target prescription abusers. Drug courier profiles, for the uninitiated, were very popular in the 1980s and 1990s, at airports and on highways. Take the highway. Cops would stop a car for a moving violation and when finished writing the ticket, instead of letting the driver proceed on his way, they would begin asking questions about drugs and cash, based on the profile characteristics, culminating in a request to search the car or a call to bring in the dogs. The characteristics cover the gamut of every behavior, most of them quite lawful. For example, when asked to explain what was suspicious about a certain suspect, a cop might mention the suspect had no luggage in the back seat but said he was going to another state (as if cars don't have trunks.) But another officer, relying on the same profile, might tell you he found it suspicious that the driver did have luggage in the back seat when en route to another state, because a non-criminal would have put it in the trunk. Another absurd criteria: Having fast-food wrappings in the car .

So I guess it should come as no suprise, now that drug agents are focusing on prescription abusers, that a new list of characteristics is cropping up. According to the Summit News, local pharmacists are working with drug task force agents and signing up for classes to be able to spot "doctor- shoppers." Here's what they are learning.

Sometimes the customer asks for a brand-name drug and wants to pay in cash. "That usually means they're going to sell them,� Hoff said. "Otherwise, they'd take the generic equivalent, because it's cheaper.�

When you've stopped laughing, think about this comment by one pharmacist who apparently attended too many of these pseudo- drug classes:

Sondra Douglas of Keystone's Mountain View Drug....said she herself turned someone away, only to learn later the patient truly needed the medication after surviving a car accident and head injury.

Maybe someone should clue these pharamacists in on what a "doctor-shopper" is and is not. It does not refer to someone bringing in a forged or a phony script. It refers to someone who sees multiple doctors to obtain overlapping prescriptions and doesn't tell any one of the doctors that he is seeing others. Put another way, it refers to a person who obtains legitimate prescriptions for the same substance from more than one doctor in the same time period. If you'd like to know more, ask Rush Limbaugh. He's the expert. Although, even he hasn't been charged with a crime....yet. And if you're headed up to the mountains for the holidays, you might think about refilling your scripts at home before you go.