Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, young adults abuse prescription drugs more than any other age group. “Young adults (age 18 to 25) are the biggest abusers of prescription (RX) opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, and anti-anxiety drugs,” says the NIDA. Young adults may abuse prescription medications the most, but adults of all ages can be dangerously addicted.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Association, “The abuse of prescription drugs – especially controlled substances – is a serious social and health problem in the United States today.” The DEA’s message to pharmacists: “You have a legal responsibility to acquaint yourself with the state and federal requirements for dispensing controlled substances.” The DOJ also explains to pharmacists that they have a legal and ethical responsibility to uphold the law and protect society from drug abuse.
With the above in mind, the DEA instructs pharmacists to: 1) know the prescriber, 2) know the prescriber’s signature, 3) know the patient, 4) check the dates on prescription orders, and 5) whenever there’s a question, call the prescriber. The DEA also tells pharmacists to find out which drugs are popular on the streets and which drugs are being resold in their area. So, how are prescriptions being forged by people?
- Patients are stealing their doctors’ prescription pads and writing prescriptions.
- Some patients are altering their doctor’s prescription to increase dosage or number of pills dispensed.
- Some drug abusers will steal their doctor’s prescription pad and have the callback number altered so the pharmacist reaches the patient when they make queries.
- Some people will call in their own prescriptions to pharmacies.
Red Flags for Prescription Drug Fraud
Drug abusers are not above leaving tell-tale signs of fraud. Often, mistakes are made and drug abusers are caught. Common red flags for prescription drug fraud include a patient receiving a suspiciously large number of prescriptions, the patient returns for refills too often, a prescription that should have lasted 30 days is running out after a week or two or even daily, the patient is picking up prescriptions for antagonistic drugs (depressants and stimulants) at the same time, patient keeps trying to pick up prescriptions for multiple people, or a number of strangers suddenly show up to pick up prescriptions from the same physician – people who do not live in the community.
Prescription Drug Abuse in America
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a matter or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking medication to feel euphoria.” According to the NIDA, the most commonly abused prescription drugs include:
- Opioids, such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone,
- Stimulants, such as those prescribed to treat ADHD, and
- Central nervous system depressants, such as sedatives, hypnotics and tranquilizers.
Prescription Drug Offenses in Florida
Prescription drug crimes are criminalized under Section 499.03 of the Florida Statutes. Under this section, you cannot legally possess any prescription drug unless you obtained it through a valid prescription from a licensed practitioner. Under Sec. 499.03(3), illegally possessing a prescription drug is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, or by a fine not to exceed $500, or both.
If you illegally possess a prescription drug with the intent to sell, dispense, or deliver the drug, you commit a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to five years in prison, and by a fine not to exceed $5,000, or by a fine and imprisonment.
Patients who commit prescription drug fraud usually fell into the practice to support their drug addictions. But these days, prescription drugs have become BIG business and carry a high retail value on the streets. Like other drug dealers, fraudsters will sell their prescriptions or try to dupe their own doctors so they can resell their drugs and make a profit. Sometimes, nurses, doctors, and the employees at doctors’ offices engage in prescription drug fraud when they realize the potential for high profit margins.
If you’re facing criminal charges for illegally possessing a prescription drug or for trying to sell prescription drugs on the street, contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. at once to set up a consultation with a Tampa drug possession attorney. Let our former prosecutors defend you – call today!