Kentucky looks to Florida for success fighting pill mills

By: Gabriel Roxas Email
By: Gabriel Roxas Email

The pill pipeline may have been broken up, but federal officials say prescription drug abusers are now finding new ways to get their fix.

As part of "Operation Pill Nation" Florida cracked down on pain clinics, and that state has seen a big drop in the number of doctors prescribing oxycodone, but now the numbers have risen in other states including Kentucky.

"You wake up in the morning, you at least have one pill, and then a few hours later, if you didn't have your own, you'd be sure that you could get a couple more," said the man we'll call, "Jim." He didn't want us to use his real name because after a long struggle with drug addiction, he's starting to put his life back together, but he'd like to help others understand the world he's trying to put behind him. It's something experts across the state came together in Lexington to study at Kentucky's first Prescription Drug Abuse Summit. The event included officials from Florida, where "Jim" knows all too well was once the epicenter of the country's pill mill epidemic. "If you went to a Kentucky doctor, you'd only get maybe thirty pills, but if you went to Florida, you could get 240 of the 30mg, 180 of the 50mg, and then 190 Xanax bars on top of it, so just the total amount that you could receive from a Florida doctor was exponentially more than you could get in Kentucky," "Jim" said.

At one point 90 of the 100 doctors who purchased the most oxycodone in the country were located in Florida. That's when lawmakers began cracking down, making it harder for doctors to provide drugs like oxycodone. "You have to have a Florida ID now. You have to be a resident, and there's some other qualifications," "Jim" said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says new laws have forced addicts traveling to Florida to look elsewhere, and a year later the top oxycodone-buying doctors are spread out among more states including Kentucky. "Once people started noticing the fact that more and more people were going down there to get their pills, you know they started cropping up in like Georgia, and you know there's some in Kentucky now, and you know you don't have to go as far," "Jim" said.

As the Florida challenges branch out, lawmakers will be looking for models of success to fight the growing problem. At Wednesday's summit, Governor Steve Beshear said lawmakers will introduce a bill this session that will call for new controls on pain clinics and wider use of Kentucky's prescription-monitoring system.

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