Five years ago, Florida lawmakers took decisive action to help curb the altogether staggering number of fatalities attributable to prescription drug abuse. Specifically, they passed legislation targeting the ability of so-called “pill mills” to dispense highly addictive pain medications like oxycodone onsite.
This decisive action was followed up with even more decisive action in the form of a statewide crackdown by law enforcement officials that resulted in a slew of arrests and prosecutions of those parties and/or entities that continued to operate in violation of the new law.
While many lauded the Sunshine State’s crackdown on these pill mills, still others argued that its impact on drug-related fatalities would be negligible, as it would only serve to increase the deadly demand for heroin, which is actually both cheaper and easier to secure on the street than prescription opiates.
Interestingly enough, however, a recently released study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University determined that Florida’s pill mill crackdown actually had a demonstrable effect when it came to reducing both the number of opioid-related fatalities and heroin-related fatalities.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found the following when comparing the drug fatality rates between Florida and North Carolina, which had no pill mill legislation on the books:
- In 2011, the number of heroin-related fatalities in Florida rose by 8 percent per month versus 18 percent per month in North Carolina.
- In 2012, the number of heroin-related fatalities in Florida rose by 6 percent per month versus 10 percent per month in North Carolina.
While the number of heroin-related fatalities ultimately ticked back up in Florida – perhaps because of the growing trend of mixing the drug with the potent painkiller fentanyl — researchers indicated that it was nevertheless significant that at least some benefit, however temporary, was derived from the pill mill crackdown.
“What I think made us feel more confident in what we were seeing … is that we saw some initial substitution to heroin, but then in a more delayed way … we then see the protective effect,” said one researcher.
It is truly encouraging to see that the state’s efforts helped save lives. Here’s hoping that future legislative efforts produce the same results, but are perhaps more focused on getting people the treatment they need than on making arrests.
If you’ve been arrested for any sort of drug-related offense, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to ensure the protection of your rights and your freedom.