Friday, December 2, 2011

Florida's Problem with Pain Pills - Who is the Real Criminal?

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses how OxyContin and other pain pills have affected Florida and the Nation at large.


Florida law enforcement is focused on prescription drug trafficking and pain clinics that illicitly prescribe pain pills.  Pain pills are classified as opioids which is a broad category of drugs delivered from natural or synthetic forms of opium or morphine.  The brand names of these drugs include: Percocet, Vicodin, Fentanyl, and the #1 drug in the class, OxyContin (popularly known as Oxy).

While alleged drug crime offenders are vilified and prosecuted in Florida by law enforcement, the truth and circumstances behind the headlines is more complex.  Just two decades ago this class of drugs was reserved for use by terminal cancer patients.  Why?  It was (and is) widely known that this class of pain pills has a chemical composition that resembles heroin and is nearly as addictive.  Doctors 20 years ago wouldn’t typically prescribe this type of pain pill to anyone but the most severe cancer patient.

So why is it that today pain pills are widely prescribed?  The drug companies began to successfully market this class of pain pills to physicians as safe and non-addictive - and the marketing worked.  In 2010, 254 million prescriptions for opioids were filled in the U.S., according to Wall Street analysts Cowen & Co.  That is enough pain killers prescribed to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month.

As an example, OxyContin won FDA approval in 1995, but faced doctors concerns about addicition.  With powerful marketing the makers of OxyContin pushed the drug’s use into everything from backaches to arthritis while claiming through promotional videos that addiction rates were, “less than 1%.”

Why This Matters To You:

Tampa Bay law enforcement paints a picture of alleged drug crime offenders and prescription drug traffickers as hardcore criminals.  In truth, most pain pill users take the drugs at first because their doctor prescribed the pills to them.  After taking the powerful drugs they find that after months or years of taking the drugs they can’t stop.

For example, doctors found that OxyContin lasted around 8 hours instead of 12, and that patients would crash and require more and higher doses.  Even patients who took moderate doses for backaches or arthritis could find themselves addicted.

It is interesting to note that the manufacturer of OxyContin plead guilty to a felony count of misbranding in 2007 and paid a $600 million fine.  Meanwhile, this same company makes over $3 billion in sales today from a mere $45 million before they started aggressively marketing the drug.

While Tampa Bay law enforcement continues to aggressively pursue pain pill users, there is hope for those who have fallen into the trap of pain pill use and addiction.  In various Tampa Bay Counties (including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, and Pasco), the criminal court system recognizes that in many cases drug crimes are the result of addiction where counseling and rehabilitation offer a better alternative than court imposed punishments.  Where appropriate, drug offenders in these Counties may be admitted to a Tampa Bay area Drug Court.  The Morris Law firm has extensive experience negotiating clients entry into the Drug Court system when appropriate.  This can potentially help alleged drug crime offenders avoid a trial and permanent criminal charges on their record.

What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for a drug related crime contact a St. Petersburg Drug Charges Lawyer to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Charges / Prescription Drug Trafficking offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).