I recently read a very interesting article in Time Magazine about the almost viral proliferation of pain clinics in South Florida and the potential problems that accompany them.  Most alarming to me was the suggestion that these clinics are spreading northward from Dade and Broward County and may soon be here in Orlando and Orange County.

According to the Thomas Collins, the Time correspondent, there are now more pain clinics in Broward County, Florida, than there are McDonald’s restaurants.  There are 115 pain clinics in Broward County and the consensus is that one clinic is busier than the next.  The chief reason that pain clinic waiting rooms are buzzing:  oxycodone.  The nation’s top 25 oxycodone-dispensing doctors are in Florida — 18 of those are in Broward County.

There is no system to tell whether the patients at these clinics have had oxycodone prescribed to them elsewhere, so drug abuse and overdoses are becoming more of a problem.  I previously blogged about this physician-assisted problem.  In 2008 there were 3,750 deaths in Florida attributed to prescription drug overdoses, and an increase of 1,000 deaths in just two years before.  These deaths by overdose dwarf the number of death by overdose from cocaine and heroin.

Drugs are so easy to get in South Florida that people are driving down from as far away as Kentucky and Ohio to get their oxycodone.  The Florida Legislature has created a pilot program to try to track prescriptions, but tough budget times have kept them from funding the program.

Until we see some kind of legal crackdown, these pain clinics are going to proliferate.  Because there is no kind of background check or criminal check required of pain clinic owners, many of the wrong kinds of people are now getting into this kind of business.  Wise consumers would be smart to avoid these kinds of clinics.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed that Orange County government will be proactive on this issue.  What do you think?

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