Abuse of oxycodone is not new. The introduction 15 years ago of "miracle" drugs like OxyContin was hailed as a leap forward in the field of pain management for patients, but early on oxycodone's addictive properties became clear. Since then, not only have patients developed addictions, but recreational drug users are increasingly seeking out oxycodone, crushing the pills to negate time-release formulas and even vaporizing pills, a method called "chasing the dragon."
As demand grew, unscrupulous doctors set up shop in strip malls and began offering large prescriptions dispensed for cash. These "pill mills" popped up by the hundreds, especially in south Florida. The result is an "Oxy Express," a steady flow of users who became black market dealers, selling part of the stash in their distant hometowns to finance their addictions.
"All it takes is 1/10th of the physician population [to act unethically] to create a national epidemic," says Stanford University researcher Keith Humphreys, a former adviser to the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The overnight appearance of a pill mill in Cherokee County last year is what drew Price into the fight against the epidemic. Neighbors complained about parking lots jammed with out-of-state cars and vans. The clinic advertised on billboards and in newspapers across north Georgia, drawing the notice of police.