Florida's State of Pain

By Pat Anson, Editor

If you suffer from chronic pain or care for someone who does, a recent half hour special report by WESH-TV in Orlando is “Must See TV” – whether you live in Florida or not.

In many ways Florida was ground-zero in the “War on Drugs,” with a sordid history of pill mills and unscrupulous doctors who dished out prescriptions for painkillers like they were candy.

In 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 98 of the top 100 oxycodone dispensing doctors in the country were in Florida and eight Floridians were dying every day from drug overdoses.

The state started cracking down. Law enforcement agencies raided doctors’ offices, shutdown over 100 pill mills, and heavily penalized pharmacies that were dispensing too many opioids.

The crackdown worked and overdoses soon declined, but somewhere along the way – in the view of many chronic pain patients -- the War on Drugs became a War on Patients. 

Florida doctors started dropping pain patients from their practices and pharmacies began turning away longtime customers who had never abused painkillers, forcing many to go on a “pharmacy crawl” in search of someone to fill their prescriptions. Faced with daily unrelenting pain, some patients resorted to suicide.

Much of what happened in Florida is now occurring on a national level, with pain patients being marginalized and viewed as drug addicts by a health care system that has grown fearful and paranoid.

WESH-TV investigative reporter Matt Grant and his producers do a commendable job covering all of this, explaining how legitimate pain patients have become unintended casualties in Florida’s War on Drugs.

You can watch his report below in three installments: