As Americans continue to suffer the fallout of the opioid epidemic, officials are looking for people to blame. Despite the fact that most experts identify a confluence of factors behind the crisis, recent lawsuits have targeted the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and sell opiate-based painkillers for their role in providing the drugs. Now, law enforcement officers are taking that philosophy one step further, targeting doctors who, they claim, mis-prescribed opioids.
Are Doctors to Blame for the Opioid Epidemic?
Documents uncovered in the many lawsuits filed against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson tell stories of doctors who received consulting and other service payments in a quid pro quo after prescribing large numbers of opioids to their patients. In the following frenzy, an “opioid strikeforce” levied aggressive charges against a number of doctors they believed were involved in these deals. But, this demand that someone pay the price for the multiple addictions and overdose deaths overlooks the fact that often, doctors write large or long-lasting prescriptions for opioids because they are the best way to manage acute and chronic pain.
Drugs, Not Doctors, Cause Overdose
In some extreme cases, doctors are even finding themselves on the hook for overdose deaths among their patients. The attempts to assign fault to a doctor who prescribed the drugs ignore the many other elements that lead to drug addiction and overdose. Our medical system, for instance, is not well-constructed when it comes to helping users recover from addiction. Additionally, most people who use prescription opioids get them from a friend or relative—potentially piggybacking off of their legitimate prescriptions. Addiction is usually treated as a criminal justice issue rather than one of public health; users are carted off to jails where they have access to neither drugs nor treatment, and are much more likely to overdose upon release. Blaming doctors for the opioid crisis not only threatens to derail their careers and lives, but also gives the false illusion that overdose is being “solved.”
Defending Against Strict Drug Statutes and Zealous Prosecutors
With opioid addiction and overdose statistics and stories making weekly occurrences in the news, the issue has stayed top-of-mind—and many people in our community have a personal connection to the problem as well. This makes it easy for prosecutors to stir up emotions and ask for harsh sentences.
Tennessee has been charging doctors with unlawful distribution, which may result in fines of up to $500,000. Of course, opioid addiction is serious, and overdose deaths tragic—but the law needs to remember that these painkillers do have legitimate medical uses, and eagerly prosecuting doctors who prescribe them could leave patients out in the cold. If you’re fighting a drug charge related to the opioid crisis, don’t get intimidated. Prosecutors are doing all they can to find people guilty. Fight back by getting a lawyer who will do all they can to protect your rights.
Call Andrew Farmer Law today at (865) 205-2637 or contact us online for a free consultation from a drug defense lawyer.