Pill Mill Alternatives
My county has a problem and we seem incapable of dealing with it.
For a while, FL had a problem with pill mills. These were pain clinics where doctors prescribed heave duty pain meds. The problem was we had a lot of them and people were addicted to the pain meds and if you could afford it, you could get your addiction treated legally. The problem is that even legal drug addiction kills. At one point 4 people a day in Florida were dying from drug oxycodone overdose.
If Florida was the pill mill capital of the country, my region was the pill mill capital of Florida. In a 2 county area we had 50 pill mills and in my county alone, we had 83 deaths in a single year.
By 2010, we had decided to shut down the pill mills. (see: http://www.tbo.com/news/crime/florida-heals-from-pill-mill-epidemic-20140830/)
The problem was that making something illegal doesn’t stop the behavior. When the doctor prescribed and supervised pain meds went away – people switch to the unsupervised and rather dangerous street drug heroin. We got rid of the pill mills and replaced them with a heroin epidemic, which has resulted in even more deaths.
What we need is a different approach to pain management and addiction treatment. The pill mills are a for profit industry. They want people to continue to be addicted to pain meds. There is no incentive to wean them off. But if we don’t have people with addictions under a doctor’s care, they die from illegal drugs. We need a new approach: a community non-profit approach to pain control. We need to ensure that people who have addictions get safe ways to get their fix, but in a way that also encourages them to treat their addiction and find other ways to get pain relief. Other safer, less expensive ways to treat pain.
This isn’t something that can be done using a for profit model. Only the community and the tax payers of the community are motivated to help people stop because we are the only ones motivated to reduce costs and end the overdose deaths. Pill mills make money by keeping people addicted. Criminalization not only doesn’t address the problem, it makes seeking help nearly impossible since to seek help for something illegal means going to jail. And people do want help for their addictions; they just aren’t receiving it or can’t afford it.
Only by taking a different path can we get different results. We need to treat addiction as a community problem (not as a crime) and invest resources into treatment programs. Run by us, the taxpayer, with the goal of getting people off the drugs and back into a productive lifestyle. As long as there is a profit motive in treatment, addiction treatment won’t be successful.
By choosing to tackle this as a community, we help ourselves, reduce costs and end the overdose deaths.
But how are we going to pay for it? By redirecting public resources currently being spent on the criminalization effort INTO treatment efforts! We are spending money either way, we may as well spend the money wisely.