Prescription for Crime

Illegal pills have sparked a wave of thefts and criminality that rural towns just can't handle

Folks in Tazewell County know they better keep their eyes open, their toolsheds locked and their barn doors shut. Junkies, addicted to prescription pills and looking for anything to steal to pay for their next fix, have turned this 520-sq.-mi. patch of Appalachian Virginia--a bucolic tangle of wooded mountains, steep hills and rolling pastures dotted with sagging barns and country churches--into a society plagued by pilferers. They swipe guns from unlocked cabinets and push motorcycles out of garages in the dead of night. They swap or sell stolen watches, lawn mowers and sneakers for potent painkillers like OxyContin.

The drug first...

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