For the past three years, Florida lawmakers and officials have waged war against prescription drug abuse. At the peak of the pill abuse epidemic, seven people a day reportedly died of a prescription drug overdose in Florida. As the Sunshine State became known as painkiller capital of America, officials worked quickly to enact legislation against prescription drugs, develop and monitor the statewide prescription drug monitoring database, and crackdown on prescription drug abusers and pill mills. Flash forward to summer 2013, prescription pills are harder to come by and more expensive, therefore making them less appealing to addicts. However, that does not mean the war is over. Now addicts are finding their replacement fix in heroin, according to the Miami Herald.
Oxycodone-Related Deaths Down, While Heroin Numbers Rise in Florida.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) semi-annual report, oxycodone-related deaths dropped statewide between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. I previously wrote a blog on the decline of oxycodone-related deaths in Florida. To read that blog, click here.
Now that oxycodone-related deaths are down, heroin numbers are on the rise. According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, from July 2010 to June 2011, there were 45 heroin-related deaths statewide. From July 2011 to June 2012, the number jumped to 77 heroin-related deaths. The FDLE is seeing the same trend. In the first three months of 2013, heroin-related charges totaled 948 and in the same three months in 2012, that number was 772.
Florida Officials Try to Fight Heroin.
Lawmakers took dramatic actions to reduce the supply of prescription drugs on the streets. According to the Miami Herald, lawmakers are now trying to fight heroin before it takes off.
Broward County’s substance abuse commission and the Sanford-Brown Institute hosted a workshop to share the news about the growing heroin trend. The commission’s board of governors has formed a task force to put together an anti-heroin campaign. The group is also publicizing the 911 Good Samaritan Act. This Act protects callers from prosecution for possessing or ingesting low-level controlled substances under some circumstances.
The Ultimate Results of Such Crackdowns.
The war on prescription drug abuse took away the supply, but not the demand. Since the crackdown we have seen the largest legitimate pharmacy chains in the state and nation not allowed to fill prescriptions for painkillers. Click here to read a blog on a Walgreens distribution center that was served with an immediate suspension order from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). To read a blog on the DEA pulling the controlled substance licenses from two Central Florida CVS pharmacies.
This has left some patients in dire straits. They are suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.
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The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
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What do you think about the increase in heroin use? Is one drug more dangerous than another? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Burch, Audra. “As Pill Mills Fade Away, Heroin Fills the Void.” The Miami Herald. (May 11, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/11/3392908/as-prescription-pills-fade-heroin.html
Gillen, Michele. “Dangerous Drug Creating New Addicts.” WBFS. (May 22, 2013). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/05/22/dangerous-drug-creating-new-addicts/
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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