The Link between Violence and Prescription Drug Abuse
The Orlando Sentinel recently reported on two men who robbed a Tampa CVS pharmacy at gunpoint, beating the manager and escaping with a substantial number of prescription pills. With the police in pursuit, they crashed the truck they had stolen and then carjacked two different vehicles. After eluding police, they continued their crime spree for another week, stealing another car at gunpoint and crashing into several cars before being captured by police. At the time of his arrest, one of the men had over 1,000 prescription pills in his backpack. Florida police cite this case as another example of how the desire for prescription drugs is linked to violent crime.
According to Phil Williams, director of Tampa’s Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI), prescription drug addicts and dealers “…are so desperate for this drug they’ll carjack you. They’ll stick a gun or knife in your face. Their addiction controls them.” The MBI investigates drug and organized-crime cases in central Florida. Williams, a former prosecutor, estimates that more than half of the cases they have investigated are related to prescription drugs. He is also quoted as saying that 75 to 80 percent of U.S. crime is linked to drug abuse or alcohol.
Proliferation of Drug Clinics
There are a large number of pain clinics in Florida, attracting prescription drug abusers and dealers. Many of these clinics are run by unscrupulous doctors who will fill pain medication prescriptions for cash. The areas where clinics have proliferated are seeing an increase in burglaries, identity theft, armed robberies and organized crime.
In Orange County over the past five years, the number of cases related to hydrocodone and oxycodone abuse has increased by more than 600 percent. Orlando Police Sergeant Barbara Jones is quoted as saying, There’s just a whole different level of violence,” said Orlando police Sgt. Barbara Jones. “It’s all about their addiction and the need to support their addiction. They will go to any extreme to do what they’ve got to do to get what they’ve got to get.”
Impact on Surrounding States
Florida’s prescription drug problem is spreading to other states. Prescription drug abusers, addicts and dealers travel to Florida to obtain pills from pain clinics. Many of the clinics advertise on the Internet, stating that they accept out-of-state patients. They accept cash only to avoid the scrutiny that can come with insurance claims. The lack of a prescription monitoring program in Florida makes it easier for clinics to distribute drugs without checking a patient’s prescription history.
Poor Appalachian c
ommunities in Kentucky and Tennessee already have a serious prescription drug problem. A prescription monitoring program has been put into effect in Tennessee, causing many drug addicts to make the trip to Florida for easy access to prescription drugs.