The Hard Cold Facts
In 2005 1,530 Floridians died from prescription drug overdoses.
In 2006 1,720 Florida residents died from legal prescription drugs.
2007 saw 2,002 Floridians die from prescription drug overdoses.
In 2008 2,184 Floridians died from prescription drug overdoses.
In 2009 2,488 Floridians died as a result of overdosing on prescriptions drugs.
Over the past five years nearly 10,000 people in the State of Florida have died from prescription drug overdose. Approximately 90% of these deaths were ruled accidental overdoses, with the remainder considered suicides.
The use of prescription drugs has been playing a role in increased accidents in the work-place. Opiates are being detected in post-accident drug tests up to four times the rate found in pre-employment testing.
Employers using Quest Diagnostics for employee drug testing have found that workers taking opiates opiates jumped 18 percent from 2008 to 2009.
Sharing The Blame
Much of the blame has been directed toward the medical community, where a small minority of doctors break the law and write prescriptions irresponsibly. Some write prescriptions for new patients for serious painkillers such as oxycodone and Vicodin without even meeting the patient face-to-face. Instead, merely using the telephone or Internet to make their questionable diagnosis. Almost two hundred physicians within Florida have been investigated, arrested, and stripped of their medical licenses for misprescribing serious prescriptions drugs, including opioid painkillers and muscle relaxers. See: Florida Home to Shadowy Industry Supplying Narcotics Over Internet
Pain Clinics are targets for great scrutiny any time the topic of prescription drug abuse is raised. Pinellas County even went so far as imposing a moratorium against the opening of new clinics. See: Pinellas County Officials: "No New Pain Clinics!"
Then there are those who point to the pharmaceutical companies themselves as being responsible for the current prescription drug abuse dilemma. These are major drug manufacturing corporations who stand to make millions through aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at physicians. Our office has previously revealed how in May, 2007 Purdue Pharma was ordered to pay a $19.5 million fine for an improper marketing campaign involving OxyContin. Federal court charges likewise resulted in a $634 million fine against Purdue Pharma Executives for misbranding the drug as having a "less euphoric and less abuse potential" than actually was the case. See: Record Pinellas Oxycodone Prosecutions - How Did We Get Here?
Florida Lawmakers Attempt to Strike Back
The Florida legislature has attempted to address this crisis with stringent new regulations. The pending Florida Prescription Drug Database Program imposes tough new requirements on all doctors and pharmacists operating within the state. It will require them to enter within 15 days the following information into a statewide electronic database when a prescription is written and filled for pickup:
Patient’s Date of birth
Strength of Prescription
DEA registration numbers for prescriber and pharmacy.
To curb privacy concerns, only a select group of individuals will have access to the information in the database, primarily pharmacists and doctors. Law enforcement will have access only to information regarding people that are the subject of active criminal investigation.
In theory, the law will allow physicians and pharmacists to combat the rampant problems of doctor shopping and drug trafficking by refusing to prescribe or supply individuals with prescription medications that they already have active prescriptions for elsewhere. However, not everyone is enthusiastic about the 15 day window allotted for data entry. Critics point out that, in terms of the realities of prescription pain abusers and unscrupulous doctors, a person could obtain thousands of pills illegally by the time the 15 days are up.
A Break-Down in the System
Many people see a terrible break down on the part of the government to ensure the safety of its citizens. They finger point to physician licensing boards who are accused of dragging their feet in investigating suspected unscrupulous doctors and only slapping the hands of those found to be unethically prescribing pain killers. See: It Isn't Easy to Take Away a Doctor's Prescription Pad
Law enforcement agencies complain that due to budgetary cutbacks they have been forced to lay off detectives. As a result, they are incapable of properly investigating the voluminous number of complaints levied against both doctors, pain clinics and "suspect" patients. Many believe that economic factors have at least contributed to Florida's reputation as the nation's "Pill Mill." See: "Dozens Charged in West Florida Pill Mill Bust"
When legislation was passed approving Florida's Prescription Database, many saw this action as a positive step in curbing the ever increasing number of deaths related to prescription drug abuse. That program was heralded to go online December 1, 2010. But unsurprisingly, the government has fallen short again and the program has been delayed into sometime into 2011. See: "Florida Prescription Database Delayed by Corporate Wrangling."
Prescription Drugs - An Open Invitation Into The Criminal Justice System
Many prescription drug abusers started taking their drug of choice with a legal prescription that was written to address a legitimate medical problem. Unfortunately, the highly addictive nature of pain killers and the need for the individual to take increased dosages to achieve the same desired euphoric affect often leads them on a path that ends in an arrest for possession of a controlled substance, prescription fraud, doctor shopping or drug trafficking. In fact, we recently reported that "drug trafficking" was perhaps one of the most misunderstood crimes in that many people wrongly believe it involves an element of "sale or delivery." In fact, a trafficking charge is premised merely on the number or weight of pills found in the individual's possession or reflected in the fraudulent prescription. See: Drug Trafficking in Florida...A Crime You Thought You Understood
Arrested for Prescription Drugs....All is Not Lost
Being arrested for these types of offenses is serious business. They are felony offenses that carry far reaching consequences. Not only do you need an attorney... but you need to know how to select the right attorney. You should choose a lawyer experienced in this area of the law and certainly one that you feel comfortable with. An experienced lawyer can review the facts of your case and provide you with possible solutions to your problem.
Our office routinely handles these types of cases that occur within the St. Petersburg / Clearwater area. Give us a call and we can discuss who the Pinellas judge is that is assigned to your case. We can also talk to you about the special opportunities afforded by Pinellas County's Drug Court.
Arrested for a Drug Charge in Pinellas County?
We are Lawyers Who Can Help!
We are experienced criminal defense lawyers who handle prescription drug offenses arising out of the St. Pete /Clearwater area. We look for rehabilitation and treatment as part of a strategy designed to avoid conviction and avoid jail.
Contact our office for a free consultation at: (727) 578-0303