Pill Mill Legislation Affects Heroin Use

Not too long ago, if an addict was having trouble getting prescription opioids in the state where they resided, they would travel to Florida to take advantage of what are known as “pill mills” – pain management clinics that would prescribe opioids with little oversight – veritable one-stop-shopping centers that prescribed and dispensed pills onsite. In a short period of time, pain management clinics sprung up like weeds throughout the state, fanning the flames of the nation’s opioid epidemic, and drawing the attention of national media outlets.

In response, Florida state officials took steps to crackdown on the rampant over prescribing in 2011, sweeping across the state closing down pill mills and restricting pain management clinics from dispensing onsite. While efforts to curb prescription drug abuse across the country have made it harder to acquire the deadly drugs, there are many who argue that the efforts may have been in vain and actually caused a dramatic rise in heroin abuse. However, new research suggests that the aforementioned trend may not have occurred in Florida, The Washington Post reports. The findings come from researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

The researchers compared data from Florida with North Carolina, a state which did not pass similar legislation. The data indicates that Florida’s pill laws resulted in fewer opioid prescriptions, less diversions, and slowed the rate of heroin overdose deaths, according to the article. In 2011, heroin overdose death rates rose by 18 percent, every month in North Carolina; whereas, in Florida the rate of heroin overdose deaths rose by 8 percent each month. The same trend occurred the following year, with a 10 percent rise each month in North Carolina and 6 percent rise in Florida.

Unfortunately, the Florida pill mill legislation would not have a permanent effect. The study had already concluded by 2013 when 199 people died from heroin overdoses. The death toll would more than double in 2014 with 447 heroin overdose deaths, the article reports.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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