he untimely death of former child star Corey Haim is taking on criminal dimensions. Reportedly, investigators believe the late actor may had had links to an "illegal and massive prescription-drug ring." (Watch a report about Corey Haim's ties to a drug ring.) Here's what's known about the operation and the extent of prescription drug abuse in California:
How does this "prescription drug ring" work?
Criminals are using the stolen identities of real doctors to order pads of prescription forms from authorized suppliers. They sell the pads to dealers or users who want to obtain drugs such as Vicodin or Valium illegally.
Where is this drug ring based?
How big is it?
The California Attorney General's Office says it has uncovered between 4,500 to 5,000 fraudulent prescriptions linked to the operation.
How is Corey Haim involved?
At least one of those "unauthorized" prescription was written out to his name.
Does that mean Haim was a dealer?
Not at all. He could be a user who illegally bought a pad himself, or the victim of a mix-up.
Why does this matter?
Haim has admitted in the past to being addicted to Valium and Soma, and many have speculated his death was caused by an overdose of prescription drugs.
Didn't Michael Jackson have a problem with prescription drugs?
Yes. The late pop singer was reportedly taking a "cocktail" of up to seven prescription drugs in the months before his death last year, including Xanax, Zoloft, and Demerol. The star is said to have used a "slew of aliases" to obtain drugs illegally.
Were the pills said to have killed Jackson legal?
Yes. The painkillers involved were obtained legally and administered by his physician. Dr Conrad Murray has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Besides celebrities, who is most likely to abuse prescription drugs?
People who work long hours such as truck drivers, transit operators and medical practitioners.
What is the State of California doing to prevent it?
It has set up a multi-million dollar monitoring program to keep tabs on controlled-substance drugs dispensed in California. In addition, it has filed charges in more than 200 cases of both doctors who have "abused their trust" and patients who try to trick doctors into providing drugs.
Sources: California Office of the Attorney General, TMZ, MTV, Life & Style
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