LIVE: Watch 4pm news on WHNT News 19

Investigators see rise in prescription pill overdoses

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. - A big issue looms, law enforcement officers see it often: prescription pain addiction.

"It's not illegal to overdose," said Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin. "It's not illegal to take more medication than you're prescribed."

She says the problem comes when the prescription runs out, but the craving doesn't. That's when people turn to black market, and that's when it's criminal.

"A lot of people are not aware that a lot of the painkillers that have opioid base are heroin derivatives," explained the sheriff.

Now, she says there's a rise in heroin deaths.

"I've never seen an heroin addict that started on the needle, it always has started with prescription drugs, every one of them."

She points out that there's no stereotype for prescription pill abuse.

"This crosses all socioeconomic lines, it's not what you think of as your typical back-in-the-'70s heroin addict," she said.

Deputies have a hard time building a case because a possible prescription abuser is in the clear as long as they came from a doctor.