PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Several times over the last 18 months, federal agents have raided pain clinics - alleged 'pill mills' - across South Florida. There has been success in battling what, prosecutors say, was a virtually unregulated pain clinic industry; much of it in Palm Beach County.
"It has made a big difference," said Dave Aronberg, Florida's former drug czar.
Now, though, the pain and problem is spreading to Florida's neighbors to the north.
"The problem is morphing into something else," said Aronberg. "Pain clinics are on the run." On the run, Aronberg says, to states like Georgia.
The Drug Enforcement Administration raided a suspected 'pill mill' near Atlanta just a few days ago.
"I really say that a pain clinic in this day and time really reminds me of crack house of the 80s," said DEA Agent Chuvalo Truesdell at the scene.
Florida launched a prescription drug monitoring database last year. Around that time, the Georgia Drug and Narcotics Agency began to notice pain clinics arriving in that state. Authorities say the numbers have grown from just a few in recent years to as many as 150 today.
"It's not Florida's fault that the increased activity has moved to Georgia," said Aronberg, who is now a candidate for Palm Beach County State Attorney. "It's Georgia's fault that they've delayed the implementation of the prescription drug database," he said.
In Florida now, anytime a controlled substance prescription is dispensed, the names of both doctor and patient are logged into a database that law enforcement can access. Georgia does not have a database, at least not yet. "Georgia was put on notice years ago," said Aronberg. "They saw this problem happening."
Georgia is in the process of creating a prescription drug monitoring database similar to Florida's system. The database is set to go on line in 2013. Aronberg believes there may be a new shift in where these pain clinics go at that time.