Prescription drug abuse is the scourge of the country and pills, like these Oxycontin tablets seized in Los Angeles, space scoring big bucks on the street.

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NEW YORK ( -- Prescription drug abuse, currently the fastest-growing drug difficulty in the country, has produced a ballooning street sector for highly-addictive pain relief, anxiety and depression drugs.

Given the involved, it"s no wonder.

Here"s a sampling the the street prices for a solitary tablet of some frequently trafficked drugs, contrasted to their retail prices:

--Oxycontin: $50 come $80 on the street, vs. $6 when sold legally

--Oxycodone: $12 to $40 ~ above the street, vs. $6 retail

--Hydrocodone: $5 come $20 vs. $1.50

--Percocet: $10 to $15 vs. $6

--Vicodin: $5 to $25 vs. $1.50

Those street prices were gleaned from the latest data put out by federal law enforcement agencies, and the retail prices to be from

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As is common in illegal drug sales, demand is driving the business.

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Prescription drug abuse is dispersing nationwide, yet it is specifically rampant in cities favor Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and brand-new York, commonwealth officials say.

For decades, Marijuana to be the gateway medicine for first-time medicine abusers in the unified States. However two year ago, prescription drugs won that dubious distinction, according to Rusty Payne, a spokesman because that the medicine Enforcement Administration.

"It"s a far-ranging shift in trend," Payne said.

In 2009, there were 7 million americans abusing prescription pain and anxiety drugs, up 13% from the former year, according to the most recent data native DEA. The agency expects 2010 number to show an additional double-digit increase.

And there"s big in it because that criminals. The trafficking in prescription drugs is near to coming to be a billion-dollar industry, industry experts say.

In Los Angeles, 80mg Oxycontin is the most renowned drug on the street through addicts. A single pill have the right to fetch $80 or more, said Sergeant Stephen Opferman the the Los Angeles ar Sheriff"s Department.

"We space rounding increase so much prescription off the street," Opferman said.

Prescription drugs leak the end onto the street in a number of ways.

In some cases, theif steal legitimate shipments. Or physicians write false prescriptions that dealers fill and also then sell the contraband.

Medicare fraud is one more route, according to Opferman, who has actually been battling illegal drug sales for more than 11 years.

Traffickers recruitment Medicare beneficiaries who space willing to offer their monthly drug supplies for cash, Opferman said. The illegal activity costs Medicare billions the dollars a year, follow to approximates from the commonwealth Centers for Medicare & medicaid Services.

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But the many troubling trend among drug abusers in Los Angeles, Opferman said, is the growing variety of young teens abuse prescription drugs.

"The kids think these drugs should be safer than heroin because their parents take it them," the said. "They hold what they call "skittles parties" wherein they try out sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills and pain medicine."