States Try to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse

More than 50 million Americans have admitted to abusing prescription drugs. That's led 39 states to take steps to monitor prescription drug use - most recently Florida - as CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

Thirty-three-year-old Amy Hodgins took prescription painkillers after she hurt her back falling off a horse. She took more when she injured her shoulder in a car accident. She says that started her addiction to prescription drugs.

"You name it, I've done it," she said recently.

Hodgins says the pills took her mind off her pain.

"It got pretty bad," she said. "I was taking 30 a day."

She says she found doctors who would write her prescriptions. But when she couldn't, she turned to the streets, buying painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin for $20 a pill.

Police departments across the country are trying to slow street sales of such pills.

Members from the New Orleans narcotics team and the DEA recently conducted a pre-dawn raid, rounding up suspected "doctor shoppers." Officers accuse these suspects of going from doctor to doctor buying prescription pain killers like OxyContin and Xanax to abuse and or sell.

And nowhere is the problem more apparent than in Florida, where pain clinics flourish and the lack of a prescription drug monitoring program makes tracking prescriptions difficult.

"When the cocaine dealers are turning into pharmaceuticals dealers - that tells you how lucrative it is," said Capt. Karl Durr, head of the narcotic division of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

Each year, nearly 7 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. That's more than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, ecstasy and inhalants combined. Florida's drug czar Bill Janes says addiction to prescription drugs is an epidemic.

"There's a perception that these drugs are not as harmful as illicit drugs because they are being prescribed," Janes said.

CBS News met Amy Hodgins when she checked into Novus Medical Center, a detox facility in New Port Richey, Fla.

Hodgins had a few ideas about when she reached her lowest point: "In Austin, when my parents had to come and kind of pick me up"; ""Not having a place to live"; "Ending a marriage was pretty bad."

Hodgins' detox from methadone was successful. She hopes to stay clean for good.

"This is a beginning for me. The end; it's over. That's my old life. It's like I'm reborn," Hodgins said.

Experts say recovering addicts like Amy are the lucky ones because they seek help before it's too late. But for most the lure of an easy high is irresistible -- keeping law enforcement one step behind still pounding on doors.
  • Byron Pitts

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