Crackdown on prescription drugs has unintended consequences

On behalf of Matthew Ferry

Rise in heroin overdoses follows strict laws against prescription drug abuse

Prior to 2010, Florida was known for being the prescription drug abuse capital of the nation. However, strict prescription drug laws that have gone into force since then have been credited with leading to a drastic decrease in the number of overdoses caused by prescription drugs. That crackdown, however, has had an unintended and devastating side effect: a dramatic increase in heroin overdoses and deaths, according to Flagler Live. Experts say the drug laws are forcing many addicts away from prescription drugs and towards heroin.

Prescription drug laws

Florida lawmakers passed tough laws against prescription drug abuse in 2010. The reforms included greater oversight of pain clinics, restrictions on who can dispense certain drugs, and a monitoring program to track drug prescriptions. The law also led to many "pill mills" being raided and shut down by law enforcement agencies, according to Pain Medicine News.

The laws helped reduce the number of prescription drug overdoses in the state dramatically. In 2012, prescription drug overdoses had fallen to 2,116, down from 2,722 in 2010. The laws were in response to the fact that between 2003 and 2009 prescription drug overdose deaths had increased by 84.2 percent.

Unintended consequences

While the decrease in prescription drug overdoses is laudable, the tough laws may be having a dangerous side effect. Officials say heroin abuse is soaring in Florida as addicts who are no longer able to access prescription drugs resort to heroin and other illegal substances. While prescription drug deaths have declined, heroin overdose deaths quadrupled in Florida between 2010 and 2014.

The problem is especially acute in Central Florida. In 2013, Orange and Osceola Counties recorded 26 heroin overdoses and deaths. Officials say they believe that figure was nearly twice as high in 2014. In Orange County, experts say that in 2011 heroin was described as the drug of choice for fewer than five percent of drug defendants, whereas now that figure is closer to 15 percent.

Drug charges defense

Authorities are increasingly focusing their efforts on combating drug abuse and trafficking. Being charged with drug possession can have severe consequences, including not just jail time but lingering effects that can last a lifetime. People convicted of a drug charge, for example, may find it difficult to obtain a job or apply for lucrative scholarships.

Dealing with a drug charge requires expert help and advice. Before talking to police, anybody charged with a drug crime should contact a criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney can guide clients through the many challenges and risks posed by a criminal charge.