When you think of a drug dealer, what do you imagine? Probably not someone wearing a white lab coat and writing in a prescription pad. However, doctors are coming under increased scrutiny for their role in prescribing drugs as our country grapples with an opioid epidemic.
In this blog post Richard P. Davies, a drug lawyer in Reno, weighs in on the opioid epidemic and what doctors can do to protect themselves from criminal charges.
What are opioids?
Opioids are medications that relieve pain like hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, and fentanyl. Opioids have a similar chemical composition to opiates like morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium. Opioids are excellent for minimizing pain, but are unfortunately very addicting.
If opioids are legal, then why is everyone talking about them?
There is a slippery slope when it comes to prescribing opioid medications. Opioids are an effective pain killer, which is why doctors prescribe them. However, opioid medications become a problem when patients become addicted to them. How many pills must one person take in order to become addicted? We may never know the answer to that question, which is why doctors must think twice about their dosage recommendation when prescribing opioid medications.
When a doctor prescribes more opioid medication than what is needed, complications may arise. The patient may take more medication than they need, opening the door to dependence and addiction. Patients may also inadvertently become part of the problem by leaving an unfinished bottle of opioids in the cabinet for a child or friend to find and experiment with.
The doctor’s office is usually the first place that opioid addicts visit. If the person cannot find a doctor to prescribe them opioids, they often turn to opiates to feed their addiction. If prescription opiates like morphine can’t be found, opioid addicts often turn to dangerous street drug forms of opiates like heroin. This progression explains why otherwise law-abiding people are seeking out illegal drugs like opium and heroin. It also explains why heroin use rates have increased dramatically over the past two years.
Any tips for prescribing opioids?
Doctors should use prudence when prescribing opioid and even opiate medications. Don’t prescribe more than what is necessary, and provide the patient with detailed dosage information. Opioids are not meant to be taken on an ongoing basis, so don’t prescribe refillable prescriptions or prescriptions that last for more than a few days. If you have patients who have been taking opioid medications on a daily basis for years, create treatment plans that gradually weans them off of opioid medications. Consider prescribing extra-strength acetaminophen and ibuprofen as alternatives to opioid painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet.
As a drug lawyer, I want to make it clear to doctors that their prescribing history may be scrutinized. Opioids are classified as Schedule 2 controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This means that public agencies like the DEA and Medicare are allowed to see how many Schedule 2 substances a doctor is subscribing at any time. Top prescribers of schedule 2 substances, including opioids, may be subject to investigation and may even have their controlled substances certificate suspended by the state medical board.
Reno doctor Richie West II’s story is a cautionary tale for doctors who prescribe opioids. He was recently jailed following an oxycodone sting in which 8 other people were arrested. Dr. West’s noble profession did not stop him from being charged with distribution and possession of oxycodone.
Be a doctor not a drug pusher. Be wary when writing prescriptions for Schedule 2 drugs, and don’t overdo the dosage for the sake of yourself and your patients. If you are in the unfortunate position of being under investigation for the distribution of Schedule II drugs, you’ll need an experienced drug attorney on your side. This is a serious crime with serious consequences, so you’ll need a rock solid defense strategy in place. Contact Reno drug lawyer Richard P. Davies today for a free case review!