FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – Florida lasts on tourism, but ten years ago thousands of visitors often visited the state without visiting its theme parks or its beaches. Instead, they came for cheap and easy prescription painkillers that were sold at unscrupulous walking clinics.
For a while, little has been done by many authorities although it was all open with little supervision.
The clinics started in the 1990s and began to grow in 2003, filling a lot of parking with vehicle sports license plates from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere. Customers were drawn through notice boards for quick and easy advertising relief between the south – a code for “We have a pill mill and we're ready to deal.”
The clinicians did not carry out any diagnostic work. They only signed recipes and exceeded “patients” to the on-site pharmacies to buy oxycodone and other narcotics at $ 10 per pill, one cash. Some pill mill tourists would visit a dozen or more clinics before they return home with thousands of pads, which were sold with their neighbors for up to $ 100 each. Within a few days, many of them were headed south again to buy more.
The successful “pill mills” helped to breed an overdose epidemic which eliminated many of the communities where the pills were launched. The release of this week's federal data, which shows the flow of prescription opioids across the United States from 2006 to 2012, again highlighted the Florida pill mill industry, which provided an incredible fire alarm under a crisis; thousands of lives eventually claimed. every year.
“You could think of the manufacturers burning the fire, and the distributors and pill mills were really pouring gas on the fire,” said Andrew Kolodny, who researches addiction at Brandeis University.
Lindsay Acree, an assistant professor at Charleston University in West Virginia, said that the pipeline to Florida provided easy access to people who had already engaged with them.
“It was very accessible, very accessible and very cheap if they got them from Florida,” she said.
Under the highlights of the clinics in 2010, Florida doctors were 90 of the top 100 opioid instructors of nations, according to federal officials, and 85 per cent of the nation's oxidation was prescribed in the state. That year alone, about 500 million pills were sold in Florida. The number of people who died in Florida with another oxycodone or opioid recipe in their system struck 4,282 in 2010, an increase four times since 2000, with 2,710 deaths as overdoses, according to state medical examiners report.
Even today, Florida is struggling with opioid addiction. Ohio was not the only state in the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017, the latest year for which official figures are available.
"Florida pill mills opened quickly as there were few regulations there … and a majority of law enforcement was not trained to handle legal drug handling for illegal purposes," said Lisa McElhaney, then sheriff narcotics investigator Broward County, the heart of the pill mill boom.
“Our laws focused on traditional drugs at street level – cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine – and not prescription drugs.” T
Ohio drug dealer Gerald Dixon said during a 2012 prison interview with the Associated Press that he would visit Florida clinics, he would tell the doctors that he had left a weight and boxing pain in pain, and that he would be prescribed pills, without examination. It would take the pills home for sale.
“It's about cash, cash, cash,” he said about the pill mill doctors. “You go, you pay the money, and I'm going to come back and say, Yes, you're right, you were injured. ”
A brilliant storm helped the Florida mill mill resign in the early 2000s, said McElhaney, who is now president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators.
Other states were putting computerized systems in place to track the sale of narcotics, but Florida was unsuccessful. This enabled unscrupulous operators to notice. The state also allowed doctors and clinics to sell the drugs they prescribed.
And, she said, there were the consequences of the 2001 al-Qaida attacks. Federal policies which would put a strain on border security that prevented terrorists and weapons from entering the country also reduced the heroin trade.
Opioid dealers must get a substitute to supply their customers and they learned that Florida was a spot for recipients of recipes; advertisements posted on the internet and in other newspapers.
With many Americans struggling economically even before the big recession, people were willing to travel to Florida to buy pills for sale for a huge profit back home.
“If we closed down one clinic, you could look at the patients, typically a wave, to go to another doctor by word of mouth. It was a cash-paying business, and it was a big business, ”said McElhaney.
McElhaney and others tried to bring the Legislature more stringent to the laws of the state, but the lawmakers made a balloon. One thing that might be that major players in state politics is the pharmaceutical companies. Between 2006 and 2015, drug manufacturers producing opioids spent almost $ 4 million in Florida on campaign and lobby contributions, a 2016 joint investigation showed The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity. Republicans, who govern the state, received almost $ 3 million and the Democrats received almost $ 1 million.
“The hardest thing the family members had lost children – and not just that some families lost two and three – and the first thing from their mouth is why doctors are allowed. do this? '' McElhaney said.
The tide against Florida pill mills in 2011 when the pressure in the media and the community reached critical mass following a number of newspaper and television industry investigations.
The new Republican governor, Rick Scott, reversed his opposition and agreed to a state narcotics tracking system. The closure of pad mills was prioritized by the newly elected Republican attorney Pam Bondi, and state drug laws were tightened up by the Legislator. This included the prohibition of doctors and clinics that issued opioids on the spot, which was the place where the money was made, and set limits on the number of pills that could be the biggest. get patients.
Law enforcement received $ 3 million to target pill mills that infringed the new laws.
The impact was immediate: Within a year, the number of pain treatment clinics registered with the state from 921 to 441 and by 2014 was 371. Jim Hall, epidemiologist of Southeastern Nova University who studied Florida drug problems, said they did not close voluntarily or did not comply with the new laws.
“They would feel 16 or 20 a day,” said Hall.
But while the pad mills were closed, the current heroin crisis is their legacy. Opioid addicts changed back to heroin after learning foreign cartels how to bypass post-11/11 security, both Hall and McElhaney said.
In 2018, due to heroin abuse and its synthetic cousin was still thinner, fentanyl, Florida's opioid death rate reached 25 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, jumped 67% from peak pill mill crisis.
Hall said every day that the open pill mills were more addictive, and that these numbers would continue to rise if they were not targeted in the end. He said the mills were pills “the gate.”
Geoff Mulvihill, a Press-related writer in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, contributed to this report
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