In 2010, it was called the “single greatest challenge to the state’s public health and safety,” according to Florida drug czar Bruce Grant. The unlawful prescription drug trade was in full swing, with pill mills doling out powerfully addictive pills left and right and the number of Floridians being killed by otherwise legal drugs growing exponentially. The problem was met with swift action and a collective effort by state, federal, and local authorities. Now it seems to be coming under control, but the fight hasn’t been all positive.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the number of people in Florida dying from prescription drug overdoses is actually declining for the first time. And, for once, the DEA’s list of doctors who prescribe the most oxycodone doesn’t include a single physician from our state.
Oxycodone and other prescription narcotics are extremely addictive and were, for many, easier to get than heroin. With pill mills seemingly on every corner, an addict could go in and get a prescription regardless of their true need. But law changes and increased enforcement over the last few years made it much harder.
Pill mills were taken out of commission and their doctors charged with serious crimes. A database tracking prescriptions was set up and pharmacies were held responsible for doling out excess pain pills as well.
“Law enforcement in Central Florida has committed a lot of resources to the problem,” said MBO Director Larry Zwieg. “I think we’re starting to see the benefits.”
So, what are these unintended consequences? How could this possibly have a downside?
Though the “supply” of prescription drugs has been tightened significantly, the “demand” hasn’t let up. Addicts(or their suppliers) are traveling outside of Florida to get what they need and bringing it back into the state. Also, many have turned to cheaper and easier to find alternatives, like heroin.
Heroin, like oxycodone, is an opiate. Unlike oxy, however, heroin is dirt cheap and is now relatively easy to find. In many parts of the country, heroin is experiencing a resurgence as prescription drug addicts look for a cheaper and more potent option.
Not only are addicts not getting the help they need to actually kick the habit, sending the drug trade further underground, those who legitimately need oxycodone and other pain medications for chronic conditions, are having a hard time getting their medicine. Their legitimate need has nearly been criminalized.
So, while prescription drug problems are better now than they were before, things aren’t necessarily all rosy. Florida officials could be fighting a heroin problem next.
If you are accused of a drug crime in Florida, we may be able to help. Contact us today to discuss your legal options.