SARASOTA -- U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, the sheriffs of Manatee and Sarasota counties and others gathered Monday in Sarasota City Hall to hold a forum on what they consider to be a leading killer in the state -- prescription drug abuse.
Buchanan told the group of at least 50 Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee residents that seven people a day are dying in Florida due to the abuse of prescription drugs.
Sheriffs Brad Steube of Manatee County and Tom Knight of Sarasota County said they see the prescription drug problem through burglaries and other crimes.
“Prescription drugs this is our new crack cocaine in Sarasota County,” Knight said.
Steube said, “We need to push the governor and our Legislature to get a PDMD (Prescription Drug Monitoring Program).”
Buchanan, Joseph Rannazzisi, deputy assistant administrator for diversion control with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and others agreed that a PDMP is part of the solution for the state. Dave Aronberg, the Florida attorney general’s special prosecutor, said 42 other states have adopted a PDMP.
However, Gov. Rick Scott has proposed repealing legislation adopted last year that would set up a Florida program.
Scott’s proposal has parent Carl Quigley reeling. Quigley’s son died from prescription drug abuse.
“It absolutely amazes me our governor does not want to save our PDMP,” he said. “We’re losing a lot of young people we shouldn’t lose. It’s not like getting off marijuana. It’s very, very debilitating. It gives them a high they can’t get anywhere else.”
Charles Watson, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s public affairs specialist, said teenagers and young people have the mentality of “if a little bit works, well, a lot works better.”
Last year in Sarasota County, 459 people were arrested on 826 charges related to prescription drugs, Knight said. In June and October of last year, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department held two pharmacy pill sting operations, Steube said.
The June sting netted 47 arrests with 79 charges related to prescription drugs. The October operation brought in 67 people on 195 charges.
“We are probably the largest detox facility,” said Dr. James Whitman, a psychiatrist of the Manatee County jail. “Well over half of the inmates are addicted to drugs.”