Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Former customer: Indicted doctor was easy source of drugs for addicts

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Prescription Drug Abuse

They're legal, prescribed by a doctor and as close as mom and dad's medicine cabinet. And they're claiming lives at an alarming rate. Is Nevada doing all it can to monitor prescription drug abuse by doctor-shopping patients and over-prescribing professionals? Plus, church or cult? The Mormon religion is getting national attention in the Republican presidential race. Is faith fair game? We'll ask former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury. He's Mormon, too!

Not everyone was surprised by the indictment Thursday of Dr. Sebastian M. Paulin Jr. for selling prescription drugs to people who don’t need them. That’s because among painkiller addicts and recovering addicts in the Las Vegas Valley, Paulin was well known as an easy source of drugs.

The indictment, announced by U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden, charges the physician with selling large numbers of prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone and alprazolam (Xanax) out of his medical clinic, at 620 E. Twain, from March 2010 to August 2011. It also charges him with money laundering, alleging Paulin made or assisted in making 69 cash deposits totaling $689,291 into two bank accounts, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

I first heard of Paulin from a source about six weeks ago and was shown a photo of people lined up outside his clinic at 6 a.m., even though Paulin did not open the doors until much later in the day. I was told the people were likely addicts waiting to fix.

I then talked to a man who has been in recovery for a year. He offered details of the Paulin operation.

He said he went to the clinic every four months for prescriptions for 120 doses of a narcotic painkiller called Lortab, 90 of Xanax and 120 of Soma, a muscle relaxer. He said the doctor never asked him about symptoms that would require medication. He said he merely told Paulin what drugs he wanted.

He was given prescriptions for three months of refills. The visit cost $100. Cash.

He said Paulin accepted 15 walk-in customers before noon, plus appointments, and another 15 walk-ins after lunch, plus appointments. This might explain why people would line up outside the clinic so early in the morning.

My source says he visited two other clinics that were similarly solicitous of his needs.

Nevadans consume about twice the national average of several prescription painkillers, making us among the most narcotic-addled populations in the United States, according to a Sun analysis by my former colleagues Marshall Allen and Alex Richards.

Their investigation also found that more people in Clark County die of prescription narcotics overdoses than of overdoses of illicit drugs or from vehicle accidents. In 2006, Nevadans were the No. 1 users per capita of hydrocodone — better-known by the brand names Vicodin or Lortab — and that we consume so much Vicodin that it averages out to 48 pills per year for every man, woman and child.

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