East Tennessee's OxyContin epidemic traced to Florida

East Tennessee's OxyContin epidemic traced to Florida


6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Millions of Americans are hooked on prescription drugs across the nation.

In fact, latest numbers indicate that prescription drugs are being abused more now than illegal drugs like cocaine or heroin.

The most popular prescription drug being abused in East Tennessee is OxyContin, a powerful prescription drug that's got an addictive grip.

"It will ruin your life real fast and you have no idea what you are getting yourself into," said a former addict, Daniel Orndorff.

"I still cannot shake it from my head. I think about the high that I experienced," said another former addict, Christian Hendricks.

Both men say they were hooked on OxyContin for years -- Orndorff for nine years and Hendricks for three.

"Before long I was using it everyday," said Hendricks.

"Heroin is a little stronger, but you can get just as high on an 'Oxy,'" said Orndorff.

OxyContin provides the same high, but it's up to three times more deadly than illegal drugs.

The drug is prescribed to be taken orally by someone in severe pain, like cancer patients.

Once in the wrong hands, it's crushed up then either snorted or injected to get the high. 

An 80-milligram is the largest dose available in pill form. On the streets, that sells for about $1 per milligram, so one an 80 milligram pill costs $80 or more.

"East Tennessee's problem is definitely Florida," said FBI Special Agent Michael MacLean.

"It's very rare that we come across, as far as prescription drugs, that is not coming out of Florida," said Agent MacLean.

The bulk of the suppply is not coming private doctors, but from pain clinics sprouting up at an alarming rate.

The FBI says in 2006 there were six pain clinics in South Florida. Now there about 150.

The clinics are a one-stop shop.

"You use an old MRI, an old X-ray or someone's urine, go through the process, and you walk out of there with a prescription of a 100 Oxy's," said MacLean. 

It's an ongoing battle between police and pushers.

The FBI says until the pill mill epidemic is stopped, the Florida to Tennessee pipeline will continue to hook people along the way.

"It's a cycle. It really is out of control," said Agent MacLean.

"It is so bad, like I said, I wish they could take them off the market," Agent said Hendricks.

Hendricks says he has escaped death several times after blacking out while taking OxyContin.

"I fell asleep behind the wheel. When I woke up I was behind a tractor trailer. I ran into the back of it on I-40," said Hendricks.

Orndorff and Hendricks say they have been clean for months, but they fight to stay that way everyday.

They are bravely revealing their demons to help themselves.

"I want to be the best father I can. I want to be back on my feet," said 27-year-old Orndorff.

They also want to prevent others from popping an OxyContin pill.

"They are just killing us, it's killing us. It doesn't just affect the person abusing, it affects everyone around," said Hendricks.

The FBI says the number of cases involving prescription drugs in East Tennessee have increased up to 60 percent  in recent years.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says the number of arrests have doubled.

The agencies emphasize the main issue for them is to get South Florida under control.

Florida legislators recently passed a bill that federal agents hope will help with the crackdown.

The law requires pain clinics, pharmacists and doctors to keep track of prescriptions in a centralized state database. The law may technically be in effect, but it has yet to be implemented because of lack of funds.

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