Tallahassee, Florida -September 12, 2012
Florida is dealing with a prescription drug epidemic. More people die in Florida each day from prescription drug abuse than from all illegal drugs combined.
But critics say the state's laws put into place to combat the abuse only pile on the pain for those who truly need the drugs.
"I've been at the same pharmacy for 10 years. They know me. I'm not a drug addict. They call me by name," says Karen Stateler who uses prescription drugs to deal with back and neck pain.
Stateler takes a low dose opioid for the pain. But as fewer pharmacists are willing to fill her script, Stateler says she sometimes must go several days without her pills, putting her into a withdrawal.
"I was dehydrated. I could barely get three steps from my bed," she says.
Stateler is one of a dozen people who rallied at the state Capitol Thursday. She is part of a group called Fight For Pain Care Action Network Inc.
The grass-roots non-profit says Florida's drug laws only hurt those who legitimately need those drugs. Now the group asking the legislature to reevaluate those laws.
"It went extremely overboard. It went to the point where even legitimate pain patients can't get their prescriptions filled," says Donna Ratliff, the group's founder.
According to the Florida Attorney General's Office, about seven people a day die from prescription drug abuse. In response, the state amped up its drug laws last year.
Under the new laws, doctors can face jail time for over prescribing medication and doctors cannot dispense and prescribe pills except under certain circumstances.
But Stateler says those laws just made things worse for both patients and their doctors.
"My pain medication doctor was thinking of quiting and going to work in a hospital They are put under too much stress, too much rules that they can't follow," she says.
While there's no talk by lawmaker yet to revise the laws, the Attorney General's Office says it's always looking at ways to make the laws more efficient.