At least 41 South Florida doctors straddle the fence between two seemingly opposite disciplines: They treat drug addicts while giving pain patients addictive drugs that have been blamed for a spike in overdose deaths statewide, the Miami Herald reports. Some of the same clinics offering addiction treatment are targeted by out-of-state drug couriers seeking painkillers for an illicit black market stretching from South Florida to Appalachia and the northeastern United States.
Many doctors who serve as both pain and addiction specialists have been disciplined by state health officials for improper prescribing of drugs — and some have been convicted of crimes, a Miami Herald review found. Yet these doctors retain approval from the federal government to prescribe a narcotic called buprenorphine — a drug used to help wean people addicted to opiates such as oxycodone. Addiction experts say this mixing of two delicate medical fields has potentially dangerous consequences: Instead of receiving the therapy they need, addicts seeking to get off drugs may simply end up alongside users and drug peddlers who frequently skip from clinic to clinic seeking narcotics to be sold illegally.