Police are searching for a man they say robbed a west Hamilton pharmacy with a shotgun, looking for prescription painkillers.

It happened on Thursday around 5:40 p.m., when a lone man walked into Whitney Pharmacy on Main Street West. Two female clerks were inside at the time.

The man pointed a gun at one of the clerks and ordered her to the ground. He then went to the counter and demanded they hand over prescription drugs including Oxycontin pills and Fentanyl patches, police say.

The man found the drugs and loaded his bag with an unknown amount. He then ran from the store and was last seen heading north. Neither of the staff was injured, police say.

Police and K9 units were called in to track the man down, but he wasn’t found.

While violent crime overall is trending down in the city, robberies targeting businesses and financial institutions increased by 11 per cent in 2012, and “most of these robberies are committed by drug users to satisfy their addictions,” according to a report presented to the police services board last year.

From 2011 to 2012, there was a 32 per cent rise in opioid-related arrests in the city — 127 of them in 2012, up from 96 the year before.

According to statistics obtained by CBC Hamilton from the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Information System, admission rates for local opioid withdrawal programs are now the second highest in the province, behind only northern Ontario.