Prescription drug abuse is garnering more attention in Alabama and nationwide. The risks of prescription drug addiction and abuse are widely documented, ranging from driving under the influence, escalation to heroin use, and overdose. For individuals who are prescribed heavy painkillers, including Oxycontin, Perocet, and Vicodin, the need for the drug may quickly evolve into dependency and addiction. This year, the National Governors Association (NGA) is highly focused on findings from the Prescription Drug Abuse Reduction Policy Academy in an effort to reduce the personal health and criminal consequences of prescription drug abuse.
According to the report, prescription drug abuse is the fastest- growing drug problem in the United States. It is the second most common form of drug abuse, second only to marijuana use. Testing for the exact effect of prescription drug use while behind the wheel can be difficult. Our Birmingham DUI defense attorneys are experienced with the legal problems involving drunk driving and driving while on prescription medication. In addition to providing counsel to our clients, we are also abreast of the legal issues and trends in drug use that can impact criminal arrests and investigations.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has lead the Prescription Drug Abuse Project since September 2012. His efforts have been supported by several other states in the hopes of developing comprehensive plans in combating the public health crisis of prescription drug abuse. When combating what is considered a dangerous trend in prescription drug use, it is likely that the efforts will turn to law enforcement, including investigation, arrest, and prosecution. These efforts will likely be waged against individuals suspected of trafficking, distributing, or selling prescription drugs, as well as against individuals who are suspected of illegal prescription drug use.
Certainly, state and federal officials do share a legitimate interest in terms of curbing the risk that some drug users pose to the public while driving. However, overly-aggressive arrest policies and prosecutions could unfairly target individuals who are legally prescribed prescription drugs.
Alabama and other states intend to take specific and aggressive action to combat illegal prescription drug use, including changing prescription patterns, offering disposal options, and increasing monitoring initiatives of prescription drug programs. Public health leaders are also interested in raising public awareness and providing treatment to those in need. State and federal authorities are also continuing research efforts to enforce policies at every level of law enforcement.
All of these efforts collectively could result in aggressive law enforcement practices. Individuals who have a legal prescription could easily be caught up in the criminal justice system. If you or someone you love has been charged with a drug crime or a DUI involving the use of prescription medication, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. You could be facing loss of license, jail time, extensive fines, a criminal record and other penalties.
There is an unfortunate tendency in these situations to assume that if you have a prescription for certain medications – particularly painkillers – that you are doing something wrong. But when you are taking the drug as prescribed and intended, you should not have to face prosecution. Even when you’ve made a mistake, the ever-harsher penalties means the punishment may not fit the crime.