Florida has battled drug abuse for decades, from the Cocaine Cowboys in the 1980s, to Prescription “Pill Mills” that came in the 2000s. In its latest move, the Florida legislature has taken important steps in the fight against drug abuse by creating laws that specifically address some of the state’s most notorious problems.
While there is still work to be done, Florida has already seen big changes in prescription drug overdose mortality rates. That’s promising, considering the fact that at one point Florida was considered the source for most of the nation’s illegally obtained prescription pills.
Three major laws are responsible for the strides Florida has taken:
Because prescription drugs are legally manufactured, they have to be diverted from the legal, medical path from pharmaceutical company to doctor to patient. The prescription drug monitoring system helps to provide accountability so that the right people get the drugs they need and the wrong people get nothing. After the program was put in place, prescription drug overdose fell by 23% in Florida. The accountability provided by the program helped put doctors in prison who wrote phony prescriptions. These doctors were often working out of “pill mills,” or businesses that profited by providing prescription drugs to people who didn’t need them.
“Doctor shopping” is the process in which a patient goes from one physician the next, getting multiple prescriptions for the same condition. While the prescription drug monitoring system helped to provide accountability for drug dispersal in the state, Florida is the only state with a law that specifically addresses doctor shopping. By stopping this trend, fewer illicit drugs make their way to the street due to physicians who didn’t know the patient’s history.
Unlike the other laws, the Good Samaritan Act doesn’t necessarily prevent drug abuse or addiction. Instead, it helps to save the lives of people who are experiencing a drug overdose by protecting the people who would get the overdosing person help. Florida’s “911” Good Samaritan Act means an individual helping someone experiencing drug overdose can’t be charged with simple drug possession. One study by Florida law enforcement concluded that approximately one third of overdose deaths involved one person witnessing someone in distress but not offering to help.
In spite of Florida’s valuable steps taken toward preventing overdoses and drug abuse, there is still room for improvement. Florida continues to have the 11th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the country. One problem is that while the supply of illicit prescription drugs has been greatly reduced, the supply of heroin has increased. In fact, more people are dying from heroin in Florida than ever before. To alleviate this problem, Florida should be doing more to support and fund state-run addiction treatment facilities, say some experts. As Florida strives to combat addiction, new laws will be needed to address the changing drug situation in the state.