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Drug Addiction Information and Resources

Florida Pill Mills

With half a billion Oxycontin pills distributed in Florida in 2009 alone[1], the Sunshine State stands at the forefront of the U.S. Oxycontin addiction.  Indeed, Florida’s illicit pill use is twice that of the next closest state—and it’s on the rise[2]. Federal authorities estimate that the problem grew by 100 million pills in a single year, an increase of 25 percent[3]. The drug is a full-fledged public health and addiction crisis affecting millions of families.

What is a pill mill?

“Pill mill” is a colloquial term for semi-legal distribution centers of controlled substances, chief among them Oxycontin[4]. Doctors, clerks and other pill mill employees often have firearms or other weapons within easy reach[5], suggesting that these establishments more closely resemble drug houses than medical clinics. Outside of Florida, Texas[6] and Pennsylvania[7] host the most pill mills. Branded (or, some would argue, disguised) as pain management clinics, pill mills often pop up and disappear rapidly. When one closes, another can pop up quickly in its place.

There are several telltale signs that a clinic might in fact be a pill mill[8]:

·      Long lines or big crowds form to see a doctor

·      Groups of several people arrive in a single vehicle to receive pain medication

·      Armed security guards protect the facility

·      Pain is treated only with pills and not other clinically proven pain management methods

·      Patients choose their own medicine, often with no questions asked

·      Doctors direct patients to a specific pharmacy, where it is also likely that they will be asked no questions

·      Medical records and X-rays are not requested or required for a prescription

·      Patients are told when to come back to receive more pills

·      Doctors do not provide physical exams

·      The clinic conducts business exclusively in cash

The last of these signs is perhaps the clearest indication that a clinic operates untraditionally. But the overall picture of pill mills becomes clear: These are places that ask few questions, play fast and loose with policy and medication, and can actively assist users in getting their fix.

How did pill mills arise?

Deaths related to prescription drug abuse in Florida began to skyrocket in 2006[9]. By 2008, there were an average of 10 deaths every day from prescription drug abuse, exceeding those from cocaine and heroin[10].  Some speculate that the recession contributed to cases of depression, which in turn fuels drug abuse. Florida became a pill mill hotspot because of its unusual laws: One need not be a doctor to run a pain management clinic, and Florida does not track pill sales, so there was no shortage of nonmedical people eager to get into the unregulated business.

What does the law say about pill mills?

Running a pill mill, or even working in one, carries serious consequences. Federal law prohibits doctors from knowingly prescribing medication for any reason other than legitimate medical use[11].  Federal law further prohibits doctors from giving prescriptions “outside the usual course of medical practice.”[12] When a court deems a prescription to be illegitimate, a doctor can be charged with drug trafficking, a charge that can carry a sentence of life in prison[13]. A cursory search unearths hundreds of cases in which doctors were imprisoned for running or working at pill mills.

Are all pill mills bad?

Not everyone is opposed to easy access to prescription medication. Indeed, defenders of pill mills argue that the establishments help people obtain much-needed medicine that they otherwise would not be able to get[14]. Some health care professionals are concerned that the hysteria around pill mills is little more than a witch-hunt stigmatizing painkillers and preventing legitimate patients from getting the care they need[15]. The debate over the legitimacy of pill mills suggests that the phenomenon is more complex than just a one-stop shop for addicts.

Florida’s response

The problem has not gone unnoticed by Florida’s state government. Law enforcement in the sunshine state has hit back hard. One trend indicates success on the part of law enforcement[16]: In 2011, Oxycontin-related deaths in Florida plummeted from 2008 by almost two thirds. Cocaine and heroin-related deaths were up, however, underscoring the unfortunate fact that drugs remain a significant problem in the state.

Oxycontin, pill mills and the drug epidemic

Pill mills make it easy for prescription drug addicts to get their drug of choice. They also allow people in legitimate need to obtain needed medication. While drug enforcement addresses the former, it can often stigmatize the latter. One prominent solution is gaining favor: Responsive and responsible regulation would allow state and federal governments to monitor the trade without punishing legitimate patients.


[1]"Illegal Pill Mills Help Make Florida Top State Distributing Oxycodone in 2009." - Tampa Bay Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.tampabay.com/news/illegal-pill-mills-help-make-florida-top-state-distributing-oxycodone-in/1155917>.

[2]"Illegal Pill Mills Help Make Florida Top State Distributing Oxycodone in 2009." - Tampa Bay Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.tampabay.com/news/illegal-pill-mills-help-make-florida-top-state-distributing-oxycodone-in/1155917>.

[3]"Illegal Pill Mills Help Make Florida Top State Distributing Oxycodone in 2009." - Tampa Bay Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.tampabay.com/news/illegal-pill-mills-help-make-florida-top-state-distributing-oxycodone-in/1155917>.

[4]"What's A Pill Mill?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501263_162-2872835-501263.html>.

[5]"National Geographic Society." National Geographic Channel. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/drugs-inc/videos/florida-pill-mills/>.

[6]"What's A Pill Mill?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501263_162-2872835-501263.html>.

[7]"Illegal Pill Mills Help Make Florida Top State Distributing Oxycodone in 2009." - Tampa Bay Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.tampabay.com/news/illegal-pill-mills-help-make-florida-top-state-distributing-oxycodone-in/1155917>.

[8]What's A Pill Mill?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501263_162-2872835-501263.html>.

[9]Collins, Thomas R. "Invasion of the Pill Mills in South Florida." Time Magazine. Time, 13 Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1981582,00.html>.

[10]Collins, Thomas R. "Invasion of the Pill Mills in South Florida." Time Magazine. Time, 13 Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1981582,00.html>.

[11]What's A Pill Mill?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501263_162-2872835-501263.html>.

[12]What's A Pill Mill?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501263_162-2872835-501263.html>.

[13]What's A Pill Mill?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501263_162-2872835-501263.html>.

[14]Collins, Thomas R. "Invasion of the Pill Mills in South Florida." Time Magazine. Time, 13 Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1981582,00.html>.

[15]Collins, Thomas R. "Invasion of the Pill Mills in South Florida." Time Magazine. Time, 13 Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1981582,00.html>.

[16]"Florida Winning Fight Against Pill Mills; Deaths by Heroin, Cocaine Up | WCI360 - Workers' Compensation Institute." Florida Winning Fight Against Pill Mills; Deaths by Heroin, Cocaine Up | WCI360. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.wci360.com/news/article/florida-winning-the-fight-against-pill-mills>.

 

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