I have just read American Pain by John Temple (2015) Lyons Press. This is the true story of the Florida “Pill Mills.” In one six month period, Florida doctors bought 41.2 million doses of oxycodone while every other physician in the country collectively purchased 4.8 million doses. Much of this was bought and distributed to addicts and profiteers, many of them out of state, by doctors working for a massive clinic known as American Pain, making 100,000 dollars a day.
I couldn’t find the humour
For me it is was a depressing but fascinating read. I think it an essential book for anyone with an interest in treating pain – it just exposes the problem in a very novel way, though I can’t find the humour in the book as was suggested on the jacket. For some years now, prescription drugs, much of them Opioids, have been responsible for more overdose deaths than non prescription drugs. And its saddening, because the pill mills still continue in small ways, all over the country. And perhaps even more saddening, there is now rational, nonsynthetic ways to treat pain – it’s only slowly getting out there.
Anyone else read it and feel angered?
Great journalism by Temple – I read it with numerous cups of tea.
Here’s a small taste of what the book is about, from the author’s website:
The king of the Florida pill mills was American Pain, a mega-clinic expressly created to serve addicts posing as patients. From a fortress-like former bank building, American Pain’s five doctors distributed massive quantities of oxycodone to hundreds of customers a day, mostly traffickers and addicts who came by the vanload. Inked muscle-heads ran the clinic’s security. Former strippers operated the pharmacy, counting out pills and stashing cash in garbage bags. Under their lab coats, the doctors carried guns—and it was all legal… sort of.
American Pain was the brainchild of Chris George, a 27-year-old convicted drug felon. The son of a South Florida home builder, Chris George grew up in ultra-rich Wellington, where Bill Gates, Springsteen, and Madonna kept houses. Thick-necked from weightlifting, he and his twin brother hung out with mobsters, invested in strip clubs, brawled with cops, and grinned for their mug shots. After the housing market stalled, a local doctor clued the brothers into the burgeoning underground market for lightly regulated prescription painkillers. In Florida, pain clinics could dispense the meds, and no one tracked the patients. Seizing the opportunity, Chris George teamed up with the doctor, and word got out. Just two years later Chris had raked in $40 million, and 90 percent of the pills his doctors prescribed flowed north to feed the rest of the country’s insatiable narcotics addiction. Meanwhile, hundreds more pain clinics in the mold of American Pain had popped up in the Sunshine State, creating a gigantic new drug industry.
American Pain chronicles the rise and fall of this game-changing pill mill, and how it helped tip the nation into its current opioid crisis, the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. The narrative swings back and forth between Florida and Kentucky, and is populated by a gaudy and diverse cast of characters. This includes the incongruous band of wealthy bad boys, thugs and esteemed physicians who built American Pain, as well as penniless Kentucky clans who transformed themselves into painkiller trafficking rings. It includes addicts whose lives were devastated by American Pain’s drugs, and the federal agents and grieving mothers who labored for years to bring the clinic’s crew to justice.