Drug War

Crackdown on Pain Medication Cuts Off Florida Patients From Relief

Better that people suffer than that anybody ever get high, right?

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Meredith Diaz's battle against chronic pain has fallen foul of America's new war on drugs.

The 35-year-old mother of three from Florida suffers with lupus, an inflammatory disease that causes bone loss and joint problems. She has a ruined knee that will soon need replacing, and herniated discs in her back. Until last year, Diaz, a nurse living on disability benefits, had no trouble getting the painkillers and anti-anxiety medicines—OxyContin, roxycodone and Xanax—her doctors regularly prescribe.

That's now changed after regulators clamped down on Florida's lax prescription controls to halt an epidemic of painkiller abuse that kills more people nationwide than heroin and cocaine combined. Drug distributors and pharmacies hemmed in by new regulations are limiting the pain medicines they keep on hand and who gets them, making Diaz and hundreds of other patients like her collateral damage.