With another successful National Prescription Drug Take-Back event – this time taking in nearly 200 tons of expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications – behind us, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wants to keep the public’s focus on the hazards associated with improper prescription drug disposal.

Due to the ever-rising numbers of prescription drug abusers across the country, it is now more important than ever that access to unused prescription drugs be strictly limited. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health shoes that more people abuse prescription medications like Xanax, OxyContin, Percocet and Valium (among others) than cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens combined, and that most abusers get the drugs from family members or friends instead of buying them on the street.

The DEA – and Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy – are excited by the huge public interest generated by the second-annual Take-Back day, but caution that limiting unwarranted access to prescription medications will require diligence by physicians, pharmacies, patients and government officials alike. Government involvement in the proper disposal of prescription medications was kicked off by the “Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010,” an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act providing guidance for how to stem the tide of prescription drug abuse by limiting access to unwanted and/or expired medications.

What Are the Effects of a Rising Prescription Drug Abuse Rate?

The effects of prescription drug abuse are wider than most people may think. It is not just the abusers themselves who are impacted. Drug abuse also effects the families of the addicts – especially if much-needed pain medication is stolen from them. Of course, drug abuse has much farther-reaching implications than just the physical damage done to the addict’s body. Addicts will go to great lengths to get their next “fix,” which can lead to a variety of criminal behaviors like theft, forgery or even prostitution.

Massachusetts legislators recognize the impact of prescription drug abuse, and they have enacted a range of laws to encompass criminal behaviors commonly associated with prescription medications. These include:

  • Forging prescriptions – Copying, designing or creating a legitimate-looking prescription that is then presented to a pharmacist to be filled
  • Changing prescriptions – altering an actual prescription by changing the name of the drug ordered, the quantity requested, the dosing information or adding additional medications to the prescription
  • “Doctor shopping” – this involves going to several different physicians in an effort to “stockpile” certain types of drugs by obtaining multiple prescriptions for them
  • Impersonating medical staff – calling pharmacies and pretending to be health care providers like doctors or nurses to order prescription medications
  • Theft of prescription pads/forms – stealing prescription pads or forms, then writing prescriptions to themselves or fictitious patients in order to get prescription drugs

Prescription drug-related crimes are taken very seriously by Massachusetts lawmakers. Even a relatively minor medication-related charge in a state court could possibly result in up to eight years in prison or a fine of no more than $30,000. With such serious consequences, you need someone on your side – an experienced drug crime defense attorney – to fight for your rights and help you explore your legal options.