Local rehab center sees influx of pain pill addicts

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – An employee at a new local detox center are calling pain pill addiction a "crisis in St. Johns County."

They are surprised by the number of patients coming in addicted to prescription pills.

"I was surprised by the number of opiate abusers," Greg Wolfe said. He is the nurse manager at EPIC Recovery Center in St. Augustine, a drug detox and rehab facility. "I'm fairly new to the state, and I didn't expect it, but I had heard there's a problem in Florida."

The EPIC Recovery Center has been open for three months. Since it opened, 50 percent of its clients are alcoholics, 40 percent of the patients are addicted to opiates and 10 percent are addicted to other things.

"A lot of the abusers are younger in age. I would say 30 and under," Wolf said.

On the law enforcement side, the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office actually arrests more people connected to methamphetamine.

Sgt. Catherine Payne with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said, "Obviously, the makers and users of meth are a little more flagrant over time because they carry their labs with them. There's a little more evidence for law enforcement officers to see."

She added that proving someone has pain pills illegally often requires a more in depth investigation for law enforcement.

Payne also noted that Florida's crack down on pill mills a couple of years ago had an impact.

"We're now not making as many arrests as we have in previous years for possession of opiates and prescription narcotics," Payne said.

Meanwhile, there are no definitive reasons why the new and only drug rehab facility in St. Johns County is seeing so many pain pill addicts. However, Teresa Andrews with EPIC said two possible reasons for the current state of pill addictions are pill mills and patients choosing to self-medicate.

It seems while meth leads to more arrests, it's the pill users who are seeking help locally.

Wolf said he's already seeing success stories, "I think people are getting better."


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