Florida needs to combat prescription drug problems

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) announced Thursday the arrests of 172 people and seizure of more than 20,000 prescription pills, a result of a five-month investigation centered on street-level dealers who obtained their products from “pill mills” throughout central and south Florida.

“It should be a red flag to somebody who has a legitimate pain problem if they’re going into a pain clinic that’s a cash-only business,” said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy, following the search of three businesses in the Tampa area last month.

Police need to continue aggressively targeting businesses that contribute to the nation’s growing problem of prescription drug abuse, in addition to other legislative changes that will soon track medications.

According to the Center for Disease Control, drug overdose is second on the list of most common accidental deaths, after auto accidents and before firearms.

Many overdoses are not from cocaine or heroin as in earlier drug epidemics, but from the growing use of dangerous and powerful prescription medications.

Pain medication accounts for about 5,000 deaths a year in Florida, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Florida is currently the largest state without prescription drug monitoring systems, allowing for an environment conducive to the illegal prescription drug trade.

Of the nation’s 100 doctors who dispense the most oxycodone – a commonly abused prescription drug – 92 are in Florida, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the parking lot of the pain management clinic raided in Tampa last month was filled with cars that had out-of-state license plates.

This indicates how Florida’s prescription drug problem is affecting other states, many of which have stronger policies for limiting illicit prescription drug distribution.

Floridians must be willing to address the seriousness of being the hot spot for the nation’s prescription drug users and dealers.

This title will not come cheap. Expenses will range from financial, with police and prisons, to societal, with increased crime and violence plaguing communities, to families devastated by drug-related deaths.

Prescription medications are powerful man-made substances that are incredibly dangerous when used incorrectly. Hospitalization or death can result from combining drugs with alcohol or other medicines and from taking them without a prescription.

It’s a concerning issue that calls for a more serious response.