Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Pill Mill

I had never been to a pill mill. When I was asked to accompany someone to Houston to visit a doctor, I had no idea what I was getting into.

We arrived at 7:10 AM, as she told me that getting there early would shorten the wait. We were the first ones. We walked through the spooky deserted office building and sat down on the fake Burberry carpet, out of the line of sight of the security patrol. Didn’t want to be kicked out into the muggy heat of the Houston summer morning.

Soon, two other people arrived, one a woman of about my own age, so we began to compare aches and pains. We had a jolly time, sitting on the floor, chatting, as others arrived and joined the line.

Just before 8:00, nurses (or, at least, women in scrubs) arrived and we were admitted to the waiting room. The patients were asked to submit their folders of medical records through the sliding glass window, and then we sat and admired the room.

The waiting room was an unprepossessing place, with slippery chairs, and a crucifix on the wall, framed under protective glass. A couple of similarly framed bible quotes completed the décor, except for the hand lettered signs that said, “PLEASE DO NOT PRESENT FORGED MEDICAL RECORDS.”


After everyone’s documents had been examined, the door to the Inner Sanctum was unlocked, and we were all herded through to the “real” waiting room. At least it had windows, and the chairs were prickly rather than slippery. The nurse-types came through with questions, calling names for people to step out and pay their (cash) “consultation fee.” The question, “Who is here for Xanax?” caused a little stir. A frisson of excitement swept the room. Those Xanax folks were pretty popular!

Naïve as I am, by then even I had to realize that most of these folks were drug dealers and/or addicts. Shortly after, I was evicted to the outer, slippery-chaired waiting room, as the inner one was filling fast with “patients.” Once out there, I was privy to several attempts to see the doctors without the requisite records. “Mine are being faxed over,” was a favourite. “Sorry. We don’t accept faxes.” “I left them in the car…I’ll just go and get them.”


Looking around, I could see that my friend and I had more teeth between us than all the rest of the denizens combined. A discussion ensued about dentures and their general level of inconvenience.

“I put those suckers in one time, and like to threw up! They’ve been in the drawer ever since!”

I declined to participate in that conversation. As a matter of fact, I declined to participate in any conversation. I had my “Judas” script, and was mentally running lines. Probably my lips were moving, and they all thought I was worse off than they were.

The scrawny 65-looking guy who was discussing teeth with the girl who had “baby love” tattooed on her ankle asked the nurse-type if that was her Toyota he had seen in the parking lot. She told him that was confidential information. It occurred to me that, if he thought he was going to hustle the pretty young nurse-type, he could at least put the damn denture in!

They threw out the lady with whom I had been cheerfully discussing aches and pains in the beginning. They said she was drunk. As she had actually crawled through the door when we all first entered, I was willing to accept the possibility, though it seemed pretty hard core for 8:00 AM.

I was glad when my friend emerged, and we were off to find the right pharmacy. Apparently, one can only fill the prescriptions from the pill mill at certain pharmacies. Or maybe the medications are just cheaper there. They gave my friend a coupon. So we drove across town to one of the acceptable stores, and found it in a sad strip center, sandwiched between a weight loss clinic and a store-front dentist. It had bars over the entire front. It was very small, with none of the merchandise usually associated with drugstores. I saw some of my new acquaintances from the waiting room. We smiled and nodded.

I was so glad to get out of there, and back on the road to Austin!


  1. This is fascinating!!! Mind if I link to it from Facebook? What an odd, kind of scary, but really interesting adventure!

  2. Sure, adventure for sure!

  3. You were down on Southside here, the neighborhood where I work, right?

    Gotta say, I love it there. Never any lack of excitement of some sort, even if it's only for a minute.

  4. Ronni, I'm still so fascinated by this. I posted to FB, and my brother, who is an anaesthesiologist in Dallas, responded by saying that there's at least one of these in every major city. Believe me, he would know.

    Just...wild. I love the way you write. Wish I could pay you to go off and have raaaandom, unexpected adventures and write about 'em.

  5. Someday I can retire and do that!

  6. Can I get you to email the name ih the pill mill to

    Many many thanks!

  7. asshole. fuck you. who are you to judge. self-rightchous dickhead.

    1. Awesome. And who are you, pray tell, to judge me? At least I can spell.