The statistics are startling, particularly in light of a multiyear federal, state and local crackdown on prescription drug abuse.
Each day, at least 40 people in the U.S. die from an overdose of prescription painkillers.
Yet in 2014 — the latest figures available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — health care providers wrote 245 million prescriptions for painkillers. That is nearly enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
And the figures come even after several high-profile busts, like the 2010 takedown of Florida brothers Christopher and Jeffrey George, who ran what's believed to be the nation's largest pill mill operation. The business employed corrupt doctors who rubber-stamped prescriptions for thousands of addicts who paraded through their clinics every day. Those clinics dispensed some 20 million pills, meaning the Georges made $40 million in just two years.
The brothers are in prison for a raft of felony counts, including a guilty plea by Jeff George to second-degree murder involving a clinic customer who died from an overdose.
The bust was designed to send a message to those involved in the painkiller trade, says FBI Special Agent Kurt McKenzie, one of the lead investigators in the case.
"You're going to catch heat. There's going to be an investigation. If you're the doctor, you could go to jail. If you're the clinic owner, you could go to jail," he tells "American Greed."
He says the George case represented an important change in how law enforcement is tackling the issue.
"A standard practice down here had been to address the junkies. Or maybe a doctor from time to time. Nobody had addressed these types of issues as an operation of organized criminal conspiracy, until we got involved and we treated it the way we did," he says.
And yet the problem persists. McKenzie admits that law enforcement can only do so much.