As Fla. pill supply dwindles, heroin sweeps East Coast

heroinfoilFlorida’s crackdown on pill mills has dried up the supply of pills to much of the East Coast, with the unintended consequence of fueling heroin abuse. As this article notes, the rise in heroin use on Cape Cod “follows a predictable course seen nationwide: when the pills disappear, heroin sweeps in.”

Between Feb. 26 and March 30, the Cape saw at least eight drug-related deaths; in the same period, police responded to another four suspected heroin overdoses in which the person was revived, the article says.

A few years ago, most cases handled by the Cape Cod Drug Task Force involved pills, but now the police estimate that as much as 95% of their caseload is heroin-related, according to the article.

The trend highlights the fallout from Florida’s efforts to turn around its reputation as the nation’s epicenter of prescription drug abuse. On the bright side, the tougher regulations resulted in the number of pill mills in the state dropping from 854 to 580 between March 2011 and March 2012, according to this article.

In that same time period, the number of inappropriate prescribers of OxyContin in Florida dropped from 98 to 11; Florida previously had the most prescribers of OxyContin in the nation, the article says.

But even with the crackdown, prescription drug abuse in Florida remains high. In 2011, more than 7 Floridians died every day from prescription drug abuse, and between 2005 and 2011, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Lee County saw an 800% increase in babies born to addicted mothers in Southwest Florida, the article says.

The Miami Herald recently called into question how effective the state’s crackdown has really been. Although many of Florida’s pill mills seem to have shifted to the more permissive regulatory environment in nearby Georgia, some operators have switched to weight-loss or anti-aging clinics, where they continue to sell profitable pharmaceuticals right on the premises, the article noted.

Another negative effect has been an increase in pill addicts switching to heroin, as has been seen elsewhere in states such as Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and Maryland, among others.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
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