Surrounding states (particularly Florida) are usually the ones seen combating major pill mills and illegal prescription drug problems. Now the trade is experiencing an uptick in Georgia as well. It was inevitable, really, with tightened enforcement in Florida, that prescription drug traffickers, addicts, and unscrupulous medical professionals would set up shop here.
It’s called the “Oxy Express”, the roadway that connects states to the north (Tennessee, West Virginia, and Ohio), to the booming prescription drug trade in Florida. And between these states lies Georgia. But because it didn’t become a problem here as early as it did in those states, Georgia’s lack of enforcement and regulation made it prime real estate for the illegal prescription drug trade.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, several recent indictments and high profile arrests exemplify just how serious the problem has become. Last month, the first suspected pill mill in the state was raided in Cartersville. Those who funded the clinic were then arrested on money laundering and federal drug charges. Other prescription drug rings have also been raided, taking hundreds of thousands of pills off the streets.
While other states have created prescription drug monitoring programs and databases, Georgia hasn’t. Not yet anyways. The Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency has applied for a federal grant to fund such a database, one that would track how prescriptions are dispersed. Even if the grant goes through, however, it would be at least 2013 before the database was online.
Prescription drug addiction is a serious matter and ultimately the driving force behind the illicit prescription drug trade. Doctor shopping, having others obtain prescriptions, and forging prescriptions are just some of the ways an addict can get around the legalities of having access to their drug of choice.
As we blogged about last month, this growing dependency of prescription opiates (like Oxycontin) is also driving an increase in heroin usage. When prescription drugs are hard to come by and very expensive, heroin offers a similar, though much more intense, high at a fraction of the cost.
Despite Georgia being later than surrounding states to control and track prescription drugs, we’ll likely see that change in the upcoming years. Fortunately, we have Florida to look to when it comes to determining what works and what doesn’t. In the meantime, enforcement through arrests and the courts will likely be the sole means by which to control the prescription drug market.
If you are caught with illegal prescription drugs, you can face serious penalties in a court of law. Consulting with a Georgia criminal defense attorney should be your first priority.