A decade ago, Florida leaders watched as prescription drugs began to wreak havoc across the U.S., says the Orlando Sentinel. Drugs prescribed to treat pain became known as “hillbilly heroin,” and in a matter of years, prescription drugs began to kill thousands of Floridians, thousands of babies were born addicted to drugs, and Florida doctors became the nation’s most prevalent buyers of the abused painkiller oxycodone.
In 2010, Florida drug czar Bruce Grant called the prescription-drug epidemic the greatest challenge to the state’s public health and safety. Today, the picture is vastly different. The number of Floridians killed by prescription drugs is on the decline for the first time in years; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of physicians who buy the most oxycodone doesn’t boast a single Florida doctor; and doctors accused of doling out pills improperly are in prison, on probation, or facing criminal charges. What happened? A combination of swift law-enforcement and legislative action made Florida inhospitable for doctors running so-called “pill mills” and the dealers and addicts who relied for years on easy access to drugs for cash.