Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida, Kentucky plead for unity in fighting drug abuse

WASHINGTON — The White House drug czar and the state attorneys general of Florida and Kentucky told Congress on Thursday that prescription drug abuse is "a national crisis" and efforts to fight it will falter without better cooperation between states and better education of the medical community and the public about its dangers.

Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said that the issue was "not on the radar screen" until recently, but that prescription drug overdoses, commonly from a pain medication called OxyContin, have become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, surpassing gunshot wounds and car crashes.

It's an economic problem as well, costing health care providers, employers and taxpayers $56 billion in 2007, he said. "We weren't paying attention to it," Kerlikowske told the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. "That was a huge mistake."

About 100 people die every day from drug overdoses, and while high-profile examples such as Anna Nicole Smith get the most attention, it's a national problem.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said at one hospital in Tampa, 20 percent of the babies born were born addicted to prescription drugs.

"Imagine the worst addict you see on TV going through withdrawals — that's how these babies come into this world," she said.

Florida was the epicenter of prescription drug "pill mills" until the Florida Legislature passed a tough prescription drug law last year, a law Bondi called "long overdue."

A statewide crackdown that began a year ago resulted in 2,000 arrests, and the seizure of nearly half a million pharmaceutical pills. But the enforcement efforts are pushing the illegal pain clinics northward into other states, such as Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio.

All but two states have begun Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, which help prosecute those who are behind rogue pain clinics, but Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Bondi said states need to do a better job of sharing information.

"You can pass these laws and move on, but that doesn't work," Bondi said.

Drug enforcement officials have tried to get people to give up prescription pills voluntarily, and the DEA has collected 500 tons of unwanted or expired medications through these efforts. Bondi said drop boxes recently set up at police stations collected five tons of prescription drugs.

"This is a war on drugs," Bondi said. "The drugs have changed."

Florida, Kentucky plead for unity in fighting drug abuse 03/01/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 9:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location

    Business

    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International Airport.

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  2. What you might have missed in the second episode of the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'

    Bucs

    We're back for another episode of The Annotated Hard Knocks, trying to find behind-the-scenes insights and things you might have missed in Tuesday's second episode of "Hard Knocks," following the Bucs in …

    As the crowd recognized him and got loud, Jameis Winston jumped up and down in celebration. [GREG AUMAN | Times]
  3. Review: 'The Defenders' brings out the best in Marvel's unlikeliest heroes

    Blogs

    The ties that bind Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist run deep. But they're just starting to figure all that out in The Defenders.

    Mike Colter, Scott Glenn, Finn Jones, Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox in The Defenders.
  4. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson can't keep 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' on-target

    Movies

    The Hitman's Bodyguard is an assault tank on semi-automatic pilot, spraying jokes and bullets with only the ammo consistently hitting its targets. The irresistible teaming of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson might be even funnier if they missed once in a while.

    Samuel L. Jackson, left, and Ryan Reynolds star in "The Hitman's Bodyguard." (Lionsgate)
  5. Hillsborough leaders ask for patience as multiple schools still suffer from broken air conditioners

    K12

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins and his facilities chief appealed to parents Wednesday to be patient as the district works through chronic air conditioning problems — and to advocate for more state funding.

    Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins says air conditioning problems at multiple schools are a "major concern" for the district. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |  Times]