Florida’s “Pill Mill” Law Results in Fewer Overdose Deaths, Says Study

Death rates from opioid drug overdose is falling in Florida due to new law curtailing pill dispensing businesses.

The state of Florida took action back in the early 2000’s to try to curb operations of what the state described as “pill mills”, businesses that made it easy for people to get opioid-based prescription drugs, and a new study says their efforts have resulted in fewer deaths due to overdosing on the medications.

Cited in an article on upi.com, the study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University suggested the enforcement of the law not only decreased the deaths from opioid drug abuse, but could be the cause of fewer heroin deaths as well.  The findings contradict expectations that the law would increase heroin use, if it became more difficult for people to obtain opioid prescriptions.

Dr. Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, an assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins said the focus by Florida’s officials on the “pill mills” in the state seems to be an effective way to reduce overdose deaths.  Kennedy-Hendricks noted an additional benefit from the legislation is the aggressive oversight of unethical businesses dispensing large numbers of narcotics may have prevented new cases of addiction from developing.

Previous studies have shown that most high school heroin users became addicted by abusing opioid prescription painkillers initially, according to the article.

The doctor also called for other states to consider similar restrictions as a way to help curb deaths caused by painkiller overdoses.

The research team looked at the mortality data gathered by the Florida Department of Health and the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics compiled between 2003 and 2012 to draw their conclusions.  The death rates for any opioid drug overdose in the two states were compared.

The findings show that painkiller overdose rates in Florida fell by 7.4 percent in 2010, the first year the law was in effect, and also fell 20.1 percent in 2011, followed by a 34.5 percent drop in 2012.

The rates in North Carolina, a state without controls on opioid prescriptions similar to the ones in place in Florida, continued to increase, four-fold from 2011 to 2012.

The researchers say the number of people dying from prescription drug overdose was 1,029 fewer than had been predicted, had the new law not been enacted.

Dr. Daniel Webster, a professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said the new study demonstrated that the correct laws, strategically enforced, can prevent addiction and save many lives.

The study’s findings can be found in the American Journal of Public Health.

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