Prescription drug abuse has become endemic across the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half a million emergency room visits occurred last year because of painkiller abuse. In 2010, doctors issued 131.2 million prescriptions for Vicodin, the Times Union reported, and the CDC notes that approximately 12 million U.S. teens and adults self-reported using painkillers to get "high."
The increasing abuse of these drugs has law enforcement authorities on the lookout for drug crimes such as prescription fraud and theft. Tennessee law prohibits obtaining drugs through "fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, subterfuge, forgery, alteration of a prescription, the concealment of a material fact, or by the use of a false name or address." Obtaining prescription medication through any of these methods is a felony, which can result in thousands of dollars in penalties and serious jail time.
The most prevalent method for obtaining prescription painkillers is through "doctor shopping," whereby a patient sees doctor after doctor, often exaggerating symptoms, in order to obtain prescription painkillers. The patients will often fill these prescriptions at several different pharmacies in order to avoid detection.
While authorities continue to crack down on consumer prescription fraud, they are also focusing on efforts to stop illegal prescriptions by medical professionals. For example, recently a Houston County Grand Jury indicted a dentist based out of Erin, Tennessee for prescribing hydrocodone, oxycodone, Xanax and Valium to several patients without seeing them in his office. The dentist, Dr. John S. Paffrath, was the subject of an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The TBI investigated Dr. Paffrath after he prescribed medication for patients who were outside his area of expertise and in amounts that were more than therapeutically necessary. He is charged with four counts stemming from incidents occurring between January and July of 2011.
The rise in crimes related to prescription painkillers has authorities stepping up enforcement action. If you have been charged with a drug crime related to prescription painkillers, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options and rights.