Florida Drug Detox Can Reduce High Prescription Drug Death Rate In Troubled Tampa Bay

Florida Drug Detox Can Reduce High Prescription Drug Death Rate In Troubled Tampa Bay

Prescription drugs are killing triple the number of people as illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, says a story in the St. Petersburg Times. The per capita death rate is over 70 percent higher than the rest of the state, and a significant shift from street drugs to prescription drugs is evident at central Florida drug detox centers.

Not only are drug detox numbers rising along with deaths, but prescription drug crime is exploding in the region. Here are just a few items from this week's news:

  • A St. Augustine physician was sentenced to 10 years for trafficking in hydrocodone, the opioid that causes Vicodin addiction and sends hundreds of people to drug detox every year. He sold 1,000 pills to an undercover DEA agent.
  • The physician's co-defendant awaits trial for selling 35,000 hydrocodone pills worth more than $175,000 to the same undercover DEA agent.
  • A Port Richey man was busted on felony drug charges for trying to sell 50 hydrocodone pills to an undercover detective.
  • Another Florida doctor is on trial for six felony counts of unlawful prescription-writing, mostly Vicodin and OxyContin, but also anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax, frequently seen at Florida drug detox centers.
  • A Ft. Lauderdale man was stopped on the interstate and a search revealed more than 1,400 oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and Xanax pills with a street value near $30,000, along with a loaded pistol and over $5,000 cash.
The surge in prescription drug crime includes more doctor shopping, prescription fraud, and pharmacy robbery than ever. Florida drug detox centers are treating more prescription drug addiction than ever, while methadone clinics are treating more painkiller than heroin addicts. Bill Janes, director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, told the Times that prescription drug addiction in Florida is "a health crisis."

The Times analyzed 772 local prescription drug deaths from 2005 and 2006 for trends and patterns. According to the findings:
  • Most victims are in their 40s, followed by people in their 20s and 30s, but teens are the fastest-growing group.
  • Most victims died from opioid painkillers, with methadone and oxycodone topping the list.
  • Many more died from anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax and Valium.
  • Nearly 70 percent died from combinations of drugs.
  • Victims are not just chronic drug abusers but include lawyers, doctors, nurses, school teachers, college kids, cops, soldiers, business owners, and even pastors and soccer moms.
Thousands of ordinary people seek prescription drug detox in Florida every year. Prescription drug addiction can strike anyone. Florida is one of only 15 states that have still not created a prescription drug tracking system to help doctors and pharmacists keep dealers and addicts from "doctor shopping." Such a system would help ease the strain of Florida drug detox centers and, more importantly, would reduce the deaths, injuries and crime surrounding OxyContin addiction, methadone addiction, Xanax addiction, and Vicodin addiction. And for anyone with a prescription drug addiction, just a few days in a medical drug detox program could save their life.

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