“Drug Tourists” Increase States’ Challenges in Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse

States’ efforts to crack down on prescription drug abuse are being made more difficult by people who travel to states such as Florida and Georgia to obtain painkillers, the Associated Press reports. These so-called “drug” or “prescription” tourists are transporting huge amounts of drugs across state lines, according to the AP.

Trying to stop drug tourists involves complicated prosecutions that cross a number of state lines, the article notes. Drug tourists travel to states with many “pill mills,” where they obtain a large amount of painkillers and then return home to sell them for as much as $100 per pill.

Florida was long known as a prime destination for drug tourists. Now that the state is cracking down on pill mills, Georgia is becoming a more popular destination for those who want to find easy access to painkillers. They come from adjacent states, and from more distant states such as Nebraska and Arizona.

“They’re like a swarm of locusts,” said Richard Allen, Director of the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency. “Once they have a script, they’ll hit every pharmacy in the state trying to get them filled.”

Earlier this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced sales of oxycodone fell 20 percent last year in Florida. Officials said the drop was mainly due to the closure of some of the state’s biggest pill mills and the arrest of some of the clinics’ operators and doctors. Florida pharmacies and doctors sold about 498 million doses of oxycodone in 2011, compared with a record 622 million doses the previous year.

In June 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill designed to cut down on prescription drug abuse by controlling pill mills in the state. The law authorized the creation of a prescription-drug monitoring database to reduce doctor-shopping by people looking to collect multiple painkiller prescriptions. The legislation also imposed new penalties for physicians who overprescribe medication and imposes stricter rules for operating pharmacies.

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