"It's hard to go through. The users don't want to endure it - it can include cold sweats, headache, vomiting, defecating on yourself, just overall loss of body control. They realize they can go next door and rob their neighbor or write bad checks. They have to get their drug, and this problem leads to a tremendous amount of our society's other crimes."
James, who spent 14 years in narcotics with a metro police force, said many cases he's worked have involved drug stores broken into in the middle of the night where the money wasn't touched.
"They go straight for the drug counter, pack up what they need, and leave. They never think about the money. That's how bad it is."
Users also scan death notices in the newspaper, looking for people who died of cancer, then break into their homes for the leftover medicines.
"Many people get these harder-core drugs, the ones that just knock you out, by reading the obituaries," James says.
"A lot of people will wonder if these drugs are so strong, why would anyone even be prescribed something like it. But if you've ever had a family member die of cancer, you know that some doctors will prescribe something just so that their last days will at least be bearable."
While oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone are commonly abused drugs, law enforcement officers encounter other pharmaceuticals or mixes popular on the streets.
An increase in Klonopin
Garrard County Sheriff Ronnie Wardrip says his officers have noticed an increase in Klonopin, a drug used to treat seizures. "Seems like anytime we make a drug arrest and any prescriptions are involved, Klonopin is almost always on them."
Xanax, used to treat anxiety and stress disorders, also is being seen more, says Eddie Montgomery, Commonwealth's Attorney for Lincoln County. "But OxyContin and hydrocodone are the two we see the most."
Combining Xanax and hydrocodone is known as a "cocktail" on the street, according to James.
Operation UNITE, an agency fighting drug abuse in the southern and eastern regions of Kentucky, says Xanax and Lortab (hydrocodone) are the most commonly purchased and abused pharmaceutical substances in its 29-county region.
"Everybody can get them," says UNITE's Law Enforcement Director Dan Smoot.
The state Attorney General's office is working on a three-prong effort to combat prescription drug abuse that includes law enforcement, treatment and education.
"Where Kentucky is ahead in some enforcement areas, such as busting Internet drug operations, we're in the bottom area for treatment," says James.