The Pill Mill Gold Rush Hits Georgia
A year after the crackdown on Florida's "Oxy Express" of pain clinics and lax prescription laws, the opioid pill trade is thriving just north of the panhandle.
Last year, Florida was home to 90 of the nation's top 100 oxycodone-purchasing doctors and 53 of its top 100 oxycodone-purchasing pharmacies. It was dispensing more prescriptions for opioid painkillers than every other state in the union—combined. So in March 2011, Governor Rick Scott created a statewide strike force that cracked down on poorly-regulated pain clinics, or "pill mills." The result? Since then, the number of pain clinics has declined dramatically. The Oxy Express, Scott declared, had ground to a halt. Actually, it appears to have just migrated north. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, the thousands of addicts and street dealers who relied on Florida's clinics have now found a new source in Georgia. Now the Peach State is home to more than 125 clinics, up from fewer than 10 in 2010, according to the director of the Georgia's Drugs and Narcotics Agency. The WSJ piece adds that, "per capita prescription sales of oxycodone tripled between 2000 and 2010." To underscore how easy it is to set up a pain clinic in Georgia, one former used-car salesman was able to hire two doctors from Craigslist (including a gynecologist), and get licensed in a matter of weeks. "The laws are minimal at best," he tells the WSJ. "We had a green light from every agency that we spoke to."