“Pill Mill” Crackdowns; We Need to Shut Down Illegitimate Pharmacies that Give Prescriptions to Addicts

Florida State sign

Florida. It’s the Sunshine State, vacation hotspot, retirement state, and one of the nicest places to live. What most people do not know about Florida, however, is the fact that this state was one of the top states in the nation for prescription drug addiction.

Florida is a place to go for sunshine, yes, but for many years, it was also a place to go to get illegitimate meds. These were unethically-sourced prescription drugs that were sold by “pill mills” across the state of Florida to local addicts and out-of-staters alike. In fact, law enforcement has now busted countless truck and van-loads of prescription drugs that traffickers were taking back north out of the state.

What are Pill Mills?

Painkillers for sale

A pill mill is an illegal pharmacy that unethically sells prescription drugs to addicts for cash. Such clinics are run by doctors who purposefully write large numbers of prescriptions to “patients,” charging a cash fee to look the other way on whether or not that “patient” really needs the prescription or not.

Pill mills had been a big problem in Florida for some time, attracting attention as the DEA moved in to deal with the local opioid epidemic that was devastating that state and seriously harming other states nearby too.

Starting in 2014, local law enforcement and DEA agents worked together to crack down on pill mills across the state of Florida. Their efforts led to one-thousand fewer overdose deaths over a thirty-four month period in the state. It wasn’t that much of a change, but it was something, and it occurred during a time period when overdose deaths were expected to increase, not decrease.

Cracking Down on Pill Mills is Effective

For some context, ninety out of the one-hundred, top doctors who purchased the very most oxycodone in the U.S. in 2010 were from Florida. That’s very suspicious. Since 2010, the state of Florida has passed laws that give the state oversight over all pain clinics and pharmacies.

The state also passed laws restricting the prescribing of narcotic painkillers, putting a limiter on how many prescriptions any doctor could write in one year and how many prescriptions any pharmacy could fill. All of this was done while the DEA and local law enforcement cracked down ruthlessly on pill mills. The results were quite impressive.

What was done in Florida needs to be applied to all states. According to lead researcher Alene Kennedy-Hendricks from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore:

“Curbing the operation of pill mills may be an effective way for states to reduce prescription narcotic overdose death rates and total narcotic overdose death rates. States with high prescription narcotic overdose death rates should consider the extent to which pill mills are operating within their state.”

Kennedy-Hendricks was a part of a research project that explored the pill mill problem in Florida and how the state handled it. The study analyzed the total loss of life in Florida from 2003 to 2012 (more than twelve-thousand deaths). The study also analyzed the reduced death toll following the closing of pill mills across the state. The results were cumulative because as more pill mills were closed, fewer and fewer people died from prescription drug overdoses.

Federal Action Recommended

What happened in Florida is a glimpse of what could happen in any other state. For example, North Carolina currently struggles with a very similar problem with pill mills to what Florida had six years ago. Tennessee has a similar problem too.

Florida’s problem was mainly addressed through local law enforcement and state government with some help from the DEA. What would be ideal would be if the federal government got involved in cracking down on pill mills. We need all pill mills removed if we are going to reverse the ruthless and encapsulating prescription drug abuse epidemic that this country is stuck in.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.