Prescription Drug “Tourists” Pose New Challenge For Law Enforcement Officials Trying To Control Painkiller Epidemic
As officials in states such as Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia crack down on so called “pill mills,” dealers and addicts are finding creative ways to get their supply. Opiate painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin are known to be potentially addicting and dangerous. Accidental overdoses have soared in recent years and many officials agree this is one of the biggest public health threats out there.
People who find it difficult to get large amounts of these drugs are turning to other states, often traveling days by car to get 180-day supplies. Dealers may turn around and sell their stash for thousands and thousands of dollars on the black market, fueled in so many communities by a growing demand. Some people pay $1 per milligram for OxyContin.
Some Pill Clinics Dole Out Drugs Like Candy
These “prescription tourists” or “drug tourists” as they’re sometimes called, can get whatever they want by visiting shady pain clinics or “pill mills.” And it isn’t hard to get a diagnosis for severe or chronic pain.
Authorities have already begun the crackdown on “pill mills” in states such as West Virginia, where prescription drug addiction is out of control. Those who are addicted or dealing pills may then head south to states including Florida or Georgia, where it may be easier to get what they’re looking for. Authorities in West Virginia have even dubbed low-cost flights to the south as the “OxyExpress.”
Demand For Prescription Painkillers Makes Enforcement Difficult
This “painkiller pipeline,” as it’s been called, runs from the Midwest and points along the East Coast all the way to Florida. Officials admit that crackdowns help reduce high volume sales to addicts and dealers, but acknowledge it’s an uphill battle.
Tracking the flow of these pills can be difficult. But equally as difficult is the jurisdictional mess it creates in terms of prosecution. Nevertheless, many states have successfully prosecuted those buying pills out of state and doctors accused of overprescribing.
The problem is demand. Some have likened it to a bulging balloon. If you squeeze a balloon in one location, the air moves to another. So as Florida begins its crackdown, officials in surrounding states should be on alert for new clinics.
Painkillers Cause Resurgence In Heroin
People who have trouble getting prescription painkillers on the street seem to have an increasingly popular alternative. A resurgence in heroin is happening on the streets as people desperate for OxyContin seek a cheaper and easier-to-obtain fix. It also provides a similar high.
Heroin addicts used to be considered the undesirables of society but this profile has changed dramatically. Thanks to the OxyContin pathway, heroin addiction is devastating more young people, professionals and so-called “upstanding” citizens.
Kicking this kind of addiction can seem impossible. No one wants to be violently sick from withdrawal. So the opiate abuse continues, and before people know it, once productive lives are spiraling toward destruction.