Friday, June 10, 2011

Really, Wouldn't Legalizing Pot Be Better?

America has a huge drug problem - a prescription drug problem.   And it's one that's flourishing in the Republican heartland.  The Guardian tracked down a Kentucky guy, Chad, who drove 1,600 miles overnight to reach Pharmageddon, America's oxycodone Mecca, Florida.

Chad is one of thousands of "pillbillies" who descend on Florida every year from across the south and east coasts of America. Some come in trucks bearing telltale number plates from Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, even far-away Ohio. Others come by the busload on the apocryphally named Oxycodone Express.

It's a lucrative trade. Chad tells us he has just paid $275 (£168) to the doctor inside the clinic, or pill mill, as it is pejoratively called. The doctor, who can see up to 100 people in a sitting, can make more than $25,000 in a day, cash in hand.

For Chad the profits are handsome too. He will spend $720 at a pharmacy on his 180 pills, giving him a total outlay of about $1,000. Back in Kentucky he can sell each pill for $30, giving them a street value of $5,400 and Chad a clear profit of more than $4,000. If he goes to 10 pill mills in Palm Beach on this one trip he could multiply that windfall tenfold. 

The White House last month said the abuse of prescription drugs had become the US's fastest-growing drug problem.

Declaring the trend an  "alarming public health crisis  ", it pointed out that people were dying unintentionally from painkiller overdoses at rates that exceeded the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and the black tar heroin epidemic of the 1970s combined.

At the heart of the disaster is the powerfully addictive painkiller oxycodone, which comes in various brands – OxyContin, Roxicodone and Percocet. It is a legitimate therapy for those in great pain but has spawned a generation of addicts and, in turn, attracted crooked doctors who massively expanded the prescription of the drugs in up to 200 pill mills, most in southern Florida.

...Though Florida is the epicentre of the oxycodone epidemic, with 98% of all the nation's doctors who handle the drug located here, astonishingly the state has no comprehensive database recording prescription histories.
Even more astonishingly its recently elected governor, the Tea Party favourite Rick Scott, has blocked the introduction of a database on grounds of cost.

Of course, when America's pillbilly in chief, Rush Limbaugh, has been caught out dancing with oxycontin twice and yet never prosecuted, it doesn't sound as though this is a problem anyone but Obama gets too worked up about.

2 comments:

Beijing York said...

I guess in terms of the war on drugs, this is the white collar equivalent of theft.

Given that MDs play a major part in this, and that many are probably very opposed to any kind on public insurance, I think I would have a hard time finding any doctor that I would trust as being compassionate and ethical.

Steve said...

The Canadian Drug fighting alliance has zero funds to tackle pillbillies, yet armies of people making $100,000 a year ripping pot plants out of corn fields.