Why am I so interested in prescription drug crimes? Well, a long, long time ago in a city far away across the San Francisco Bay, I worked as an undercover narcotics operative. For almost 2 years, I bought prescription drugs from unscrupulous, unprincipled pharmacies and health care practitioners. The Bureau of Investigation of the State of California recruited me when I was a grad student at CAL Berkeley. And I worked one half day a week while doing my master’s.
In all the time, during all the “buys” from all the perpetrators, I was turned down only once. Believe it or not, all these practitioners were warned beforehand that they were under investigation. A complaint about prescribing malfeasance would first be reviewed by the department. It was then reviewed by the appropriate licensing board, and then, and only then would an investigation begin. An investigator would go in inform the doctor or pharmacist or whoever, that an investigation was underway. Within 14 days, someone like me would be sent in to buy drugs.
A typical operation went like this. The investigator I worked with would pick up and then treat this poor starving grad student to lunch while we discussed the cases on the schedule for the day. Often we “dined” at the officer’s club at Treasure Island in the company of cops and military brass. I was always the only woman, and the only “hippie radical commie” at the table.
Actually, I was no longer a raging, rabid student radical (not that I ever was one), but I had to dress the part for my “act” – my act being a full time student, full time waitress, and falling to pieces under the strain of trying to go to school full time and needing to work to pay my tuition. I needed “speed,” to be able to keep up, to make it all work. Or I needed narcotics to escape my overburdened life. Or I needed barbs or I needed something. I could never give a legitimate reason for using the drug du jour. Do you want to lose weight? No. Give me a break…I was a 105 lb soaking wet in those days. Was I falling asleep, maybe afflicted with a touch of narcolepsy? No. I just needed more energy.
I had a radio transmitter in my purse. All buys had to be recorded and the tapes sealed and signed. Test the recording and transmitting equipment, be sure to have a pocket full of cash, and then descend into, what in most instances, was a pretty slimy world.
Bill and the other investigators loved to tell horror stories, of operatives being drugged, and then lured into dope addled orgies, committing unspeakable sexual acts, and coming home disheveled and confused days later. One operative allegedly got divorced when all the details of one of these perverse incidents came to light during a trial.
Was there any real danger? I was instructed, should any threat loom, to kick and scream. While I had signed a waiver saying that State of California would not be liable for any injuries I caused (yikes), the investigators said if something happens, just let loose, and worry about it later. I never had to “let loose,” but I did have to tap dance away from nurse who came at me with a syringe full of barbiturates – her doctor (the guy we were investigating) thought I needed something to calm me down!
First check in at the reception desk, then a short wait or a long wait, and then meet the doctor. In the entire time I did this kind of work, only one doctor performed any sort of physical exam…and all he did was take my pulse and blood pressure. Most often, I asked for drugs and was given a bottle full of pills or a prescription. I paid and left. I always had to ask for a receipt and was always given one. Amazing!
There was one doc who stuffed twenty kinds of amphetamines in bottle. Another wanted a kiss. One man was selling abortion shots –giving injectable progesterone – a treatment which would induce uterine bleeding if a woman was merely late for her period, but would do nothing if she was pregnant. He was charging $300 for the shots. Five doses of oral medroxyprogesterone, available at Planned Parenthood for $20 dollars, would have done the same thing. The feds busted him on tax evasion charges.
While my purchases were generally 25-50 dollars at a time, and that may sound petty, one doctor in Oakland was dealing thousands of dollars a week. He was arrested in 1969, and bail was set at $25,000 which he paid in cash. He was back in his office doing business in less than 6 hours. He was well known and identified by multiple law enforcement agencies for suspected billing fraud, and though I had been buying from him for almost a year, none of the State evidence was used in his trial. The federal authorities, once again, handled the prosecution.
There is a silver lining to all this. These horrible men convinced me to go to medical school. Not that they embodied the ideals and qualities you might hope to find in someone in medicine. On the contrary, they were almost universally corrupt, greedy, and vile. I just figured if degenerates like these could get though medical school, it couldn’t be all that hard?
Take a look at the Drug Enforcement Agency website. http://www.justice.gov/dea/index.shtml
Jobs at DEA rest at the interface of the life sciences and the law, with positions in forensic science and research leaning toward the bioscience side, and special agents and intelligence officers leaning more to the legal side. You could end up with a job at CSI, working alongside that cool dark-haired Goth girl with bangs, pigtails, romper stomper boots and tattoos (who I hear is really a blonde!!)