Broward News

America, Broward Feels Your Pain (and Takes a Cut)

Like any place else, Broward County has its share of conventional junkies, but our real addiction, it seems, is to the profits of the pain pill industry. If you have trouble wrangling a prescription in your home county or home state, Broward's the place to go.

The first article in the Miami Herald's two-part series from earlier this month quoted Hollywood Police Capt. Allen Siegel as saying of a regional drug enforcement task force:

''Broward County has become the Colombia for pharmaceutically diverted drugs,'' Siegel said. ``We're supplying everywhere.''

The number of pain clinics in South Florida has ballooned from 60 to 150 in just the past year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates. Broward alone has 89 clinics, Siegel said.

Nobody's hands are clean. Not the health-care industry that credentials crooked, ex-con docs. Not the legislators, who have been slow -- and incomplete -- in their efforts to close the loopholes. Not the cops, who see several "pill mills" open for every one they shut down. Not even the newspaper edition of this blog, which in the Herald article received this little plug:

Many clinics lure patients with the promise of drugs sold on site, and with coupons and discounts advertised in the back pages of alternative weekly newspapers, or on bus benches and billboards.
In fairness, the Herald advertises for pill pushers too. The paper's second article reveals the tragic consequences of this industry for portions of Appalachia, whose pill-popping community is racking up frequent-flier miles -- so no clear conscience for you either, local airport workers.

The alarm has sounded as far away as the Los Angeles Times, which in its Saturday edition declared that "Florida opiates are giving oranges a run for their money as the Sunshine State's best-known export," with Broward singled out as the most egregious offender.

All this attention makes pill mills an inviting political football for Florida legislators like Sen. David Aronberg of Greenacres; but yesterday, in his latest piece, Herald writer Scott Hiaasen found that the proposed reforms won't be enough to slow this bustling blackmarket industry.

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Thomas Francis