Det. Michael Donaldson's job is to try to find doctors who prescribe drugs for profit and then stop them, either through criminal prosecution or by helping the state strip them of their medical license.
Now, after 16 years of undercover work, one detective is coming out of the shadows and talking about his fight to police the prescription drug epidemic in Davidson County.
Donaldson is changing specialties in the Metro Nashville Police Department, but he can offer a unique first-hand account of dirty doctors and prescription drug addiction in the community.
Donaldson has dedicated his career to policing the drug world by trying to shut down pill mills and the handful of doctors who prescribe drugs for cash.
"There are some doctors that are making anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a day cash. And the manner they manage to do that is through repeat business of drug seekers," Donaldson said.
Donaldson said Davidson County and its more than 200 pharmacies has become the center of the prescription drug problem in Middle Tennessee.
"This is the equivalent of having a cocaine farm in the middle of Tennessee, where you could just get all the dope on that. But there is just no way to even slow this down," he said.
Those who think this does not affect them should consider that Metro police investigators believe 80 to 85 percent of all burglaries are drug-addiction related.
"What people don't take into consideration are how many burglaries occur every day while decent people are going to work by seekers who are only stealing your hard-earned property so they can go back and buy 20 or 30 pills," Donaldson said.
The detective said police have few legal tools to stop the cycle. Prescribing drugs - even way too many - almost never leads to criminal charges. At best, it leads to a license suspension, even though the clinics in question are like no doctor's office most people have ever seen before.
"I went to one doctor's office, and two or three of the patients were just sleeping on the floor because they had been there that long. Seven, 8, 9 hours these doctor's visits take," Donaldson said. "You know what a normal doctor's office looks like, because you've been to one. But if you could see the video of the people sleeping on the floor, and how filthy the office is, then you know that this person is not practicing medicine."
Some of the pill mills in Nashville are cash-only, and the seekers don't need appointments. Instead, the operation is based on the calendar.
Someone who gets their prescription on the fifth of the month just shows up again on the fifth of the next month to get a refill.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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