Local pharmacist recalls near-death encounters with burglars, drug dealers
REDDING, Calif. - The American opioid crisis is being felt right at home in the Northstate, including business owners who have seen some of the scarier symptoms of the epidemic.
According to Redding pharmacist Ron Lim, it's been a serious problem since the 1980s.
Lim owned and operated Lim's Family Pharmacy in the Shasta Community Health Center's building and has been living in and serving the community for decades.
He said the street value of highly effective prescription pain medications has caused his pharmacy to be broken into not once, but several times.
He remembers the election night of 1980 when a man wielding a gun entered the pharmacy and held Lim and his wife at gunpoint.
"I felt a gun barrel at the back of my neck. That's an awful feeling," he said. The armed burglar told the couple not to move for ten minutes.
"He ran, and within seven days, he was caught because he was bragging about it and how he was going to go to the Emergency Room at the hospital and hold them up."
Lim later discovered the young man was a local who had been a football star in high school.
Another time, the pharmacy was broken into by a ring of burglars working together. Lim said they tampered with the pharmacy's security system and were able to disable the alarm.
Lim still has the rock they used to shatter one of the pharmacy's window to break in. Now, he's placed bars on all the pharmacy's windows.
Lim added that the ring was eventually caught in Washington State.
He said the addiction epidemic to opioids isn't something new, as is proven by his history of dealing with burglars since the 80s.
"We used to have people leave the pharmacy, stand out front and make deals right there."
However, what is new are the rules and restrictions governing the inventory of opioid pain killers American pharmacies are allowed to have in stock.
"The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is trying to cut down on the use of opioids," Lim said. "And one way to control it is to control how much is being distributed to pharmacies."
He said the less drugs there are on the shelves, the less drugs there are on the street, which has forced many users to switch to heroin instead of opioids. It's also caused many dealers to become so desperate they resort to burglary and violence, putting an even bigger target on the backs of America's pharmacists like Lim.
"I've heard of people walking out to their cars, having a gun pulled on them, and then being told to turn around, go back inside and get the drugs."
While the memories of his past near-death experiences are still frightening, Lim said he feels more prepared for the scary future of the opioid crisis because of them.
He doesn't believe ridding the country of opioids completely is the ultimate resolution, but does advise anyone with chronic pain to try non-addictive remedies like acupuncture and physical therapy first. Lim said if the pain persists, people should consult their doctors about taking medication.