States fight 'tourists' trafficking painkillers

July 9, 2012 • Business

In this photo made April 19, 2012, Gerald Dixon, 53, serving a four-year sentence for transporting prescription painkillers from Florida back to Ohio for illegal sale, describes his drug dealing activities during an interview at Lebanon Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio. Amid a national epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse there’s a busy North-South network. “Prescription tourists” drive vans from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and other states down to mine Florida’s pill mills. They load up with drugs and head back to sell their bounty. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

LEBANON, Ohio (AP) — As he sat in the doctor’s office, ex-boxer and weightlifter Gerald Dixon explained that years of sports had left him in pain, especially his hands, and he was looking for relief.

After a cursory examination at the clinic in West Palm Beach, Fla., Dixon left with a prescription for 180 doses of OxyContin — and a plan to return to his Ohio home and sell them on the street.

The trips made by Dixon and others like him — authorities dub them “prescription” or “drug” tourists — have complicated the challenges investigators face trying to stem the flow of painkillers, whose prevalence have made drug overdoses the leading cause of accidental death in dozens of states including Ohio, Florida, Kentucky and Utah, surpassing car crashes.

Dixon, 52, a drug dealer for most of his adult life, had recently discovered a new angle on an old profession. By driving to Florida just once a month and acquiring a bagful of pain pills — legally and illegally — he could earn tens of thousands of dollars.

The only thing the medical clinics that Dixon visited in Florida cared about was the money, he said. A diagnosis for severe pain was easy to obtain.

“It’s all about cash, cash, cash,” Dixon said during a prison interview in April with The Associated Press. “You go, Login to read more

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