Prescription Drug Deaths:What Can We Do About It?

Prescription Drug Deaths:What Can We Do About It?

The Encarta Dictionary defines autopsy as “The medical examination of a dead body in order to establish the cause and circumstances of death.” The early Egyptians performed autopsies. An autopsy was performed on Julius Caesar.

In Florida, the legislature has instructed the medical examiner to “make or have performed such examinations, investigations, and autopsies as he or she shall deem necessary or as shall be requested by the state attorney.”

Autopsies are often performed in Florida when a person’s death appears to have been caused by an accident, a crime, suicide, or a sudden death when the person was in apparent good health and when there is no apparent cause.

The Florida Medical Examiners Commission analyzed 168,900 Florida autopsies done in 2007. They concluded that prescription drugs have replaced “street” drugs like cocaine and heroin as the leading cause of drug abuse deaths in Florida.

These researchers found that the rate of deaths caused by prescription drugs was three times the rate of deaths caused by all illicit drugs combined. Here are some of the findings:

  • Cocaine, heroin and all methamphetamines caused 989 deaths
  • Legal opioids like Oxycontin caused 2,328 fatalities
  • Drugs containing benzodiazepines, such as Valium, were implicated in 743 deaths.
  • Alcohol was the most commonly occurring drug, appearing in the bodies of 4,179 of the dead

There is no question that this prescription drug epidemic is nationwide. The Drug Enforcement Administration found that the abuse of prescription drugs has increased 80% in the past six years. The Drug Abuse Warning Network warns that the number of emergency room visits attributed to drug abuse has increased 153% in the past 12 years.

This problem is rapidly growing in Florida. Many of us believe that this is in large part because, unlike 38 other states that have passed laws allowing for the monitoring of prescription drugs, the drug companies have blocked enactment of this legislation in Florida.

This has allowed Florida to become the place where not only citizens of Florida but many people from adjoining states can come and easily obtain prescription drugs which they can either abuse or sell to others (or both). There is a medical clinic in Pinellas Park, Florida that offers a coupon that assures the patient that if you come to their clinic, for a fee of $350 you will leave with prescriptions for OxyContin and Xanax. Subsequent visits are only $250 to get these prescriptions refilled.

You don’t have to meet a shady character in a dark alley and risk arrest or other dangers—like buying counterfeit prescription drugs. You can go to a “doctor” and take your prescriptions to a real drugstore and get drugs that create the same effects as heroin. No wonder drug abusers flock to these clinics.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement believes that many of the people going to clinics like this one don’t use the drugs themselves but sell them for between $3,000 and $10,000 on the street. This makes it easy to pay the $350 to the clinics.

There are a number of other “clinics” in the Tampa Bay area where similar prescriptions can be obtained with the same ease. These clinics are the source of many of the prescription drugs that are killing our children and ruining countless lives.


A valid question is, “Why don’t the police, the medical licensing authority or agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stop these doctors?” Unfortunately, under our current laws, if the medical doctor actually performs tests and concludes that the patient is truly suffering pain, he can legally prescribe these drugs.

Only when the medical doctor starts dispensing these narcotics without an exam or, in some cases, without ever seeing the patient, or if the medical doctor just decides that he will become a drug dealer, can the authorities really move against him.


More and more medical studies and doctors are concluding the same thing, that these narcotics are not effective in most people if used for the treatment of pain for more than six months. These “painkillers” actually are “pain increasers”. Since these narcotics are not treating or curing the cause of the pain but merely blocking the pain signals, they benefit few and harm many.


Most of us do not occupy positions of apparent power. We are not members of Congress or senior officials in law enforcement. We are just regular people trying to raise our children well, pay our bills and live a happy and productive life.

How are we going to do something that the federal, state and city authorities either cannot or will not do about these medical doctors who are really just drug dealers?

The answer is very simple. In our society, this drug dealing can only operate in darkness. As neighborhood organizations have learned, if a group of residents just go stand and look at drug dealers and call attention to them, they will leave the neighborhood.

This solution has been used for centuries to right wrongs. It was used by Gandhi to free India and by Martin Luther King, Jr to bring about real social change. If we shine the light on these drug dealers, like cockroaches they will scatter.

This week on Larry G’s Prescription Addiction Radio Show, Dan Pearson, who lost a teenage son to prescription drugs, and a dozen other ordinary citizens decided it was time to call attention to this drug dealing medical doctor in Pinellas Park. They marched outside the drug dealer’s office and carried signs informing the public that a drug dealer was in their neighborhood and this drug dealer must be shut down.

Did they shut the drug dealer down with one march? No, but if enough of us legally assemble in front of the drug dealer’s office and educate our fellow citizens that these are the people that are killing our children and destroying lives, their clientele will go elsewhere and without clients, so will the drug dealer doctor.

Nelson Mandela spent many years of his life in a South African prison. However, from prison he is credited by many with having forced an end to apartheid in South Africa with his words and strength of character. He was once asked what he hoped to accomplish from prison. He said, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

No sane person is in favor of these drug dealers. By each of us shining our light on this evil, we are empowering others to do the same and, because most of us are good people, they will join us and our collective lights will become a laser that eradicates this evil from our midst.

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