SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Forget heroin or crack cocaine. Getting high these days involves Oxycontin, a legal pharmaceutical. Abuse of the opiate is rampant, and many of the victims are young suburbanites, who will go to great lengths to get their fix.

“We’re just looking for information, intelligence,” said Joe, an undercover San Francisco narcotics officer. Joe is on assignment with Tony, a DEA special agent.

They are part of a new joint task force, set up to attack the growing problem of illegal prescription drug sales. “Oc” and “Hillbilly Heroin” are the street names for Oxycontin, the highly addictive prescription pain pill that is fast becoming the high of choice, mostly among young adults.

“They are smoking them, they are snorting them, they are injecting them,” Joe said.

An 80 milligram dose of “Oc” goes for $40 on the street, more expensive than heroin. But the high price isn’t stopping people from all over the Bay Area from driving into the city to buy it. It is destination shopping at the corner of Leavenworth and Golden Gate, an area widely known as “Pill Hill.”

“We didn’t make that name up!” Joe said.

“A lot of people know this is where they can come to get their pills,” Tony said.

Sure enough, just minutes after Joe and Tony pull in, a “buyer” crosses the street in front of them. “He’s looking for some kind of narcotic,” Joe said. He approaches a man in a wheelchair. Minutes later he’s headed back to his car.

“See, here he comes. He did his deal,” Joe said.

Where is he from? The company car he is driving is registered to a business on the San Francisco waterfront.

Minutes later, we witness another transaction. This “buyer” is even bolder, negotiating right out of his car.

“See, he’s handing him the pills right now. He just handed them,” Joe said. Apparently unfazed by people passing by, it looks like he is crushing a pill on his dash.

And then: “See, he snorted it. He just snorted it!” Joe said. “You see how blatant it is!” Tony added.

What happened next surprised even our detectives. “He doesn’t want to pay him all. See now he’s all pissed off because he’s not paying him the amount he wanted for the ‘Oc.’ He just ripped him off!” The buyer drives off in a hurry. His license plate registers to an address in San Anselmo.

“It could have been a very bad situation,” Tony said.

It’s the potential for violence, and the growing number of overdoses and deaths, that is prompting the police crackdown. But it’s a tough job.

“You can’t arrest them fast enough and keep them behind bars long enough to make a real drastic effect,” Joe said.

Though the San Francisco Police Department made over 300 arrests in just the last 6 months, Joe said the District Attorney’s office has a revolving door. “We do all this paperwork arresting these people and they go in the system and then they come right back out,” Joe said.

“I understand the frustration in the police department,” said Sharon Woo. She heads up the San Francisco District Attorney’s criminal division. “I would like to tell him that we are prosecuting these cases,” she said.

But she said many of the suspects are elderly and disabled, possibly selling their pills to make ends meet. “We don’t necessarily think that incarceration is the solution for this population of people. We are trying to give them services to stop selling their pills,” Woo said.

But from a cop’s perspective: “I understand you give people chances, but do you give them chances 20-30 times?” Joe said.

And what about the bigger fish: Shadow dealers, trafficking thousands of pills at a time.

Woo said those cases are high priority. “We will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

So far she admits those major players have been elusive. “I don’t know where the supply is coming from. All we can do is continue to investigate,” Woo said.

That is one thing everyone agrees on. “That’s our goal, is to stop the flow of drugs out here, so it’s not as blatant or easy for these people to get these drugs,” said Tony.

Potential sources for illegal Oxycontin sales are so-called dirty doctors, and dirty pharmacies. Investigators with the newly formed Prescription Task Force are working leads nationwide to track them down.

(© CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (7)
  1. COLY says:

    How come this is being told to the public, when as of April,2010 these Oxycotin OC’s have been raped by the FDA and Goverment and Purdue tagging along for another new PATENT in their pockets. They have changed to Oxycotin OP’s so these addicts cannot IV, Snort, or Chew up. OP’S or Oxy Plastic’s or Oxycotin Poison are now on the market. What’s on the shelves are being replaced by these Oxycotin OP’s plain and simple. Get a grip and stop telling the sheep out there to be OH SO SCARED. Just watch NOW how your Physician will be the Goat for you to be on Suboxone. Grea ! controlled by Biggest Brother our one and only PHARMACEUTICAL’s who are running the shots. BEWARE USA they will have you. I STARTED AS YOUR PATIENT WITH MY LIFE IN YOUR HANDS AND NOW YOU CALL ME AN ADDICT AND ARE NOT LISTENING TO ME AND MY BODY BUT ARE BEING USED TO GOAT ME DOWN A PATH OTHERS TELL YOU TO TAKE ME YOUR PATIENT. Rise up and tell the FDA under MED/WATCH your complaints about all drugs they change on you. Tell your physician, tell your State. Have you been given Oxycotin OP and discovered you throw them up or your medication is not doing its job, TELL dont be quiet. This is how they can compensate the need for them to change. Stories exactly like this one. Check into the lies Purdue told about how it wasn’t as addicting and other lies that cost them 640 million $$$$$. Open up your eyes and those putting these stories on the NEWS in the PAPERS your doing HALF YOUR JOB for a reason. SHEEP!!! that you are.

  2. David Elliott Lewis says:

    Opiate use and abuse has been around for at least five millennium if not longer. Opiate addiction is a medical issue and should be treated as such. Nobody should ever be put in jail for making that very private and personal choice to use drugs. What we put in our own bodies is a fundamental civil liberty and self evident Human right. It should not be subject to criminal sanctions. Prisons should be for those who harm others, not themselves. Drug use should be a medical issue not a criminal justice one.

  3. Terrrie says:

    You can find the empty bottles in the gutter that still have the info on them. They should be going after the docs who write these scripts, and I’ve been saying that for 15 years. I guess I’ve been here long enough that they finally stopped asking me to buy something every single day more than once.

  4. Patrick Connell says:

    Sadly I lost a friend to a Dr. Wolfe who was notorious for giving anything you wanted as long as you paid upfront. My friend had just been paroled after doing 20months on a 3 year sentence, enhanced because his house is near a school. Anyway having been in prison he was basically clean and low tolerance. Dr. Wolfe prescribed Oxycontin 80mg. , Methadone 10mg. 90 pills 1 3 times a day, valium and soma . Unbelievable fully understanding that my friend was an addict. He gave him valium and soma one or the other not both, and methadone and oxycontin again why not one or the other. My friend was found dead 3days later stripped naked all body hair shaven and pushed down a ravine near skyline and Page Mill. Thanks for looking after your patients my friend a guy who when I was using always let me sleep on his couch regardless of having or not having any dope to offer.

  5. Citizen says:

    Now Kamala can ignore this problem on a state level instead of just the City level…

  6. Common man says:

    Talk about too much too late. There are. NO more oxycontins!!!! These cops are dumber than all the addicts, dealers, and pill mills combined. The DEA made the manufacturer change it’s product so one can not snort shoot or smoke, MONTHS ago. Come on man! Pill hill was taken over by crack long ago. This story is bs and so are the actions of the police.

    They just want to scare everyone through propaganda!!! Medical patients CAN’T receive OC anymore, let alone the street dealers!!! Stop demonizing a useful medication!

    And guy with a dead friend…at least he isn’t selling dope to kids anymore. He isn’t bothering society either or costing us more prison money! The city is probably better off without one more crook on the streets. And junkies don’t get to judge others buddy. Your friend was “drug seeking” and probably lied to his doctor, I see it all the time. Especially fresh outta the pen I by he leaned the con game there. Stop whining, people die all the time, he wouldn’t be dead if he wasn’t being a festering sore on society!!!!