FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida survives on tourism, but a decade ago thousands of visitors made frequent trips to the state not to visit its theme parks or beaches. Instead, they came for cheap and easy prescription painkillers sold at unscrupulous walk-in clinics.
The clinics started in the 1990s and began proliferating in the early 2000s, with little oversight. Their parking lots filled with vehicles sporting license plates from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere.
The “pill mills” helped seed an overdose epidemic in many communities where the pills ended up.
This week’s release of federal data showing the flow of prescription opioids throughout the U.S. has again put the spotlight on Florida’s pill mill industry, which in hindsight provided a blaring fire alarm about a crisis that claimed tens of thousands of lives.