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Author traces Appalachian painkiller addiction to Florida pill mill

Associate Professor John Temple is the Journalism Program Chair and teaches reporting and writing courses at the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism.
Associate Professor John Temple is the Journalism Program Chair and teaches reporting and writing courses at the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An author and professor traces prescription drug abuse, including in West Virginia, to a multi-million dollar drug operation with beginnings in Florida.

“The cash flow was so big that early on they just threw out their cash registers and started throwing money into garbage cans. They had a guy hauling those back to the cash room,” explained John Temple on MetroNews “Talkline.” “I mean, it was crazy.”

Temple told Hoppy Kercheval Monday over prescribing opiods dates back to the 1970’s. But, Temple’s book “American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic”, focuses on the Florida- based painkiller distribution ring that reached its peak in 2008.

Christopher and Jeffrey George, twin brothers, started what Temple called the “largest pill mill in the country at the time”.

They recruited doctors online.

“They went to Craig’s list. They put a little add on saying if you have a license to prescribe controlled substances give us a call,” Temple explained.

Ten percent of patients were from West Virginia. The majority of patients, 90 percent, were outside the Sunshine State. Deliveries were coordinated to   Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio.

“There was a young kid I wrote about a little bit from West Virginia who passed away. I mean, lots and lots of people died as a result of these pills,” recalled Temple from his months of research.

Christopher George raked in $40 million before federal investigations began.

“They knew that their patients were addicts and dealers who were coming down mostly from these Appalachian states including West Virginia and going to Florida, loading up on pills, bringing them back up here and either using them or selling them on the street,” Temple said.

The Georges were home builders looking for a more profitable business when the housing market dipped. They used the same business approach.

“They hired multiple doctors. They advertised. They were on the internet. They had billboards. It just exploded,” described Temple.

Doctors prescribed 20 million doses of opioids in a 2-year period of time, according to Temple. According to Temple, federal authorities pursued the brothers on conspiracy charges.

Both are in prison.

Temple will be part of a painkiller epidemic panel at the WVU College of Law Aug. 31.

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