When most hear the words "drug crime", their first reaction is to think of street drugs like cocaine, marijuana or heroin. While these drugs certainly result in many arrests by law enforcement, prescription drug crimes are a major problem in Pennsylvania.
Many people are unfamiliar with the dangers of prescription drugs. Any time a person picks up a magazine or watches television they will see ads for various drugs addressing a wide range of health issues. This can lead to a belief that the drugs are safe, and cannot cause any long-term health problems if abused.
Certain prescription drugs, like painkillers such as OxyCodin and Vicodin, are common in these types of cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sales of painkillers have tripled since 1999. Abuse has also risen during this time period, as overdose deaths have substantially increased, from 4,000 in 1999 to 15,000 in 2008.
With more abuse, more people are looking to try to obtain large quantities of the drug. This can lead to several different types of prescription drug crimes, including:
- Forging prescriptions, either by changing the amount of drugs distributed or stealing a prescription pad
- Using prescriptions that were made for other people
- Going to multiple doctors to have prescriptions filled
- Doctors or pharmacists selling, distributing or possessing drugs unlawfully
The increase in abuse has also led to more attention from law enforcement officials. Prosecutors aggressively pursue these charges, and sentences for prescription drug crimes can be just as severe as sentences for street drugs. Many of the people charged with these crimes have never been in any type of trouble before, and do not know the potential penalties that they are facing. Those accused that work in the health care industry may lose their jobs, and be unable to find future employment in the field.
Source: CNN, "How Prescription Drug Abuse Costs You Money" James O'Toole, Feb. 24, 2012.