Florida's 'pill mills' were a gateway to the opioid crisis

Florida's 'pill mills' were a gateway to the opioid crisis
In this Feb. 2011 photo a DEA agent escorts Zvi Harry Perper to an awaiting police car after his Delray Pain Management clinic was raided by agents in Delray Beach, Fla. Florida’s ‘pill mills’ were a gateway to the nation’s opioid crisis, feeding addiction and overdoses in Appalachia and other states. They exploded across Florida in the early 2000s and operated for years with little oversight. The release this week of July 19, 2019, of a trove of federal data showing the distribution of opioids across the U.S. put the spotlight again on Florida’s notorious ‘pill mills,’ which provided the seeds of an epidemic that continues to cost tens of thousands of lives each year. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

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.