Florida, a state that is known as one of the worst in terms of prescription drug abuse rates, is finally taking steps to create a task force to combat the problem. Although a national plan would be ideal for combating substance abuse on a larger scale, a smaller, yet involved, program in Florida is a positive first step.
Eighteen community leaders have been called upon to create a plan at the behest of Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.
The task force, led by former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, will serve to tackle the prescription drug abuse problem in ways that are most effective in Florida. The drug trafficking industry is changing, moving from low-level drug dealers to what medical examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia describes as the new phenomenon of “doctor shopping and pain clinics.” By refocusing their strategy to these new issues, Florida officials feel they will have a better chance at gaining a foothold to combat prescription drug abuse in their own communities.
The task force comes at the heels of a new statewide drug monitoring program. Because doctors in Florida prescribe over ten times more oxycodone pills than every other state combined, it is clear that a multi-pronged approach could be more helpful as officials slowly wrap their heads around the scope of the problem.
Previously, we had discussed the benefits of programs aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse, and finally, it seems as if this will become a reality. Facing problems including substance abuse, drug trafficking, pill mills and children being born addicted to narcotics, these implementations were increasingly necessary.
The Rise in Prescription Drug Use
There are other problems, too. The rise in prescription drug abuse is so severe federal health officials refer to it as an epidemic. When you consider prescription drug overdose is now the most common cause of substance-related death, it’s easy to see why. Most individuals who die from a prescription drug overdose do not meet the clinical definition of addiction. They simply combined drugs with alcohol or accidentally took too much.
Prescription drug abuse is a serious enough problem on its own, but painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin are also linked to the steep rise in heroin addiction. Heroin and painkillers derive their psychoactive effects from the same place: the opium poppy.
Connection Between Heroin and Prescription Drugs
The drugs produce a similar high, and heroin and painkillers cause the same withdrawal symptoms. It also means individuals who abuse prescription drugs are far more likely to seek out heroin when getting another prescription becomes too difficult.
Illicit drug manufacturers understand the demand, which is why cheaper, purer heroin has flooded the streets of America. In some places, obtaining heroin is easier than getting marijuana. Users can snag a small bag of powerful heroin for only $5, but one pill could cost as much as $60. These are the devastating choices addicts face every day. A prescription drug task force could reduce the growing number of people who become trapped in addiction.
Florida has a long struggle ahead in the battle against prescription drug use, but fortunately, their task force and state-wide monitoring program could, if run effectively, could help turn the tides on this growing problem.