Florida Everglazed

By Dirk Hanson 03/29/11
Cops raid a Sunshine State "pill mill." Photo via overoll

Packed with phony “pain relief” centers, and famous for lax enforcement, Florida prescribes ten times more Oxycodone pills than all other states combined. Storefront pain clinics market pain pills by the truckload on thousands of grey-market Internet sites, while lines of zonked-out customers wait outside the clinics in the morning. During Florida's contentious gubernatorial campaign last November, the GOP's staunchly conservative candidate, Rick Scott, vowed that the state's escalating drug problem would be among his most important priorities. So, both foes and supporters where shocked when—in a surprising last-minute maneuver—the newly elected governor killed a popular program that would have created a statewide computer database designed to track drug prescriptions. According to Bob LaMendola in the Orlando Sentinel, the governor’s about-face “stunned legislators, law enforcement officials and others who have been waiting anxiously for two years for a tool that 42 other states use to track the illegal distribution of narcotic drugs from pain clinics.”

Defending his actions, Scott noted vaguely that “the program has not been working.” Others maintain that his impressive contributions from Big Pharma may have contributed to his decision. In the meantime, Florida remains ground zero for abuse of prescription drugs—most notoriously Oxycontin. A few years ago, Gov. Jeb Bush’s daughter was nabbed while trying to score Oxy on a street corner. Soon afterward, conservative blowhard Rush Limbaugh was charged with "doctor shopping" after his maid met with federal authorities for a little chat about her employer’s habit of sending her to parking lots for drug runs. (Surely coincidentally, both Bush and Rush were among Governor Scott’s major boosters in the bitterly divisive campaign.) Undaunted by the setback, state and federal agents ignored the governor completely and recently staged “Operation Snake Oil,” a crackdown on Florida clinics that netted hundreds of doctors, clinic workers, money launderers, and $22 million in cash.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]