South Florida has begun to see an alarming trend; pain clinics which supply thousands of addictive pain killers are also providing addiction treatment. Regulators and addiction specialists in the area suspect that instead of trying to help, these clinics are trying to cash in on new markets –preying on the addicts they have created.
The global pharmaceutical addiction treatment market was valued at $2.7 billion in 2008 and is expected to grow to an estimated $5.3 billion by 2015, according to one analyst.
The treatment being prescribed is often not accompanied with adequate counseling or oversight. These “pill mills” are also the source of millions of black market pills being distributed up and down the east coast.
The pills have flowed by the millions through storefront pain clinics that open up almost daily from Miami to Palm Beach County. Broward County alone has at least 115 pain clinics, and is home to 33 of the 50 doctors who dispense the most oxycodone in the country, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration data.
Dozens of clinics entice patients with blaring advertisements in alternative newspapers, offering coupons and discounts and not-too-subtle appeals to out-of-state clients.
In the same ads, many clinics also promote treatment for drug addicts with Suboxone, whose primary ingredient, buprenorphine, is designed to help blunt the affects of heroin, oxycodone or other opiates.
Suboxone and similar drugs are considered highly effective for treating dependency and addiction. It’s also proven safer than methadone, once commonly used to treat heroin addicts.
But a doctor does not need to be a board-certified addiction specialist to distribute Suboxone. A doctor can receive approval simply by completing an eight-hour online course. About 17,000 doctors nationwide are approved to administer Suboxone, including almost 1,200 in Florida.
A Miami Herald review of 353 Suboxone-approved doctors in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties found at least 53 of them have been disciplined by state health officials or have been charged with a crime _ about one of every seven doctors.
Narconon is a non-profit drug rehabilitation and education center which provides drug treatment and education across the southeast.