The unfortunate reality is that prescription drug abuse has become a major problem across the nation, including right here in Oklahoma, as more and more people are seeking treatment, dying of overdoses or being arrested on drug-related charges.
According to health officials, there are two primary reasons for this phenomenon. First, the highly addictive nature of the drugs themselves, such that people unwittingly find themselves becoming addicted after initially taking the drugs for legitimate medical purposes.
Second, physicians may be overprescribing these addictive prescription drugs, making them that much easier to procure through legal or illegal channels. Indeed, statistics show that in an average year, physicians will write 128 prescriptions for painkillers for every 100 Oklahomans.
"We have far too many being pushed out legally into the supply, where then a person taking them legally can become addicted, or they can be diverted into the hands of someone who then becomes addicted or is already addicted," said the State Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commissioner.
In recent developments, the state's criminal code underwent a significant transformation back on November 1 after some of these highly-addictive prescription drugs officially became subject to drug trafficking laws.
Specifically, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, etc,), benzodiazepine (Valium, Klonopin, etc.), and morphine were all added to the list of substances on the state's drug trafficking list, placing them alongside more well known drugs like cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine.
What this means is that anyone caught with an exceptionally large amount of prescription drugs -- far more than the standard prescription -- could now be facing significant time behind bars, as well as steep fines ranging from $100,000 to $500,000.
While it's not surprising to see state lawmakers take this step in light of statistics like those outlined above, it also begs the question as to whether incarceration is always the answer in these types of situations. After all, chances are very good that someone in possession of a large quantity of prescription drugs is highly addicted, and would perhaps benefit more from drug treatment and rehabilitation.
If you are under investigation or have been arrested on drug charges -- possession, distribution, trafficking -- consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to ensure your rights are enforced and your freedom is protected.
Source: Public Radio Tulsa, "Some prescription drugs now subject to Oklahoma drug trafficking laws," Matt Trotter, Nov. 3, 2014