A drug can be legal when prescribed by a doctor, yet it can be illegal when someone uses it without a valid prescription. If you are being investigated for a prescription drug crime, you cannot afford to be poorly represented. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has expertly defended prescription drug charges in Houston and throughout Texas.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm regularly assists clients with drug cases involving illegal prescription medications, such as:
- Forging of prescriptions
- Pharmacy fraud and prescription fraud
- Illegal possession of prescription medications
- Transportation of drugs
- Distribution of drugs
- Illegal buying prescription drugs online
- Drug delivery, manufacturing and trafficking
If you have been charged with one or more of these offenses, you could be facing jail time and other significant consequences. It is important to know what to do in the days following an arrest and how an experienced attorney can build a vigorous defense for your charges. In many cases he will be able to have your case dismissed entirely. Call Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case. Attorney Johnson answers the phone 24 hours per day and offers you a free initial consultation.
Hire the Best Houston Drug Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in Texas. There are many possible ways for someone to acquire prescription drugs for illegal use. Some people obtain the prescription drugs from a person who has a valid prescription. Others steal a doctor’s official prescription pad and forge the doctor’s signature for the medication, while some create a counterfeit prescription that resembles a doctor’s official prescription. There are some who do what is called “Doctor Shopping,” which entails going to many different doctors complaining about a medical condition to get prescriptions from each of them.
What is prescription drug abuse?
Prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feelings elicited. According to several national surveys, prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety, are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana among illicit drug users. The consequences of this abuse have been steadily worsening, reflected in increased treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths.
How many people abuse prescription drugs?
According to results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 2.4 million Americans used prescription drugs nonmedically for the first time within the past year, which averages to approximately 6,600 initiates per day. More than one-half were females and about a third were aged 12 to 17. Although prescription drug abuse affects many Americans, certain populations, such as youth, older adults, and women, may be at particular risk.
Who abuses prescription drugs?
Individuals of all ages abuse prescription drugs—data reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicate that an estimated 36 million U.S. residents aged 12 and older abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime. The survey also revealed that millions of teenagers and young adults abuse prescription drugs—2.7 million individuals aged 12 to 17 and 6.9 million individuals aged 18 to 25 abused prescription drugs at least once. Prescription drug abuse among high school students is a particular concern. According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey, more than 10 percent of high school seniors in the United States abused narcotics (other than heroin) at least once in their lifetime. Nearly 17 percent abused amphetamines (a type of stimulant), 10 percent abused barbiturates, and 11 percent abused tranquilizers at least once.
Adolescents and young adults
Abuse of prescription drugs is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25, with 5.9 percent reporting nonmedical use in the past month (NSDUH, 2010). Among youth aged 12 to 17, 3.0 percent reported past-month nonmedical use of prescription medications.
According to the 2010 MTF, prescription and OTC drugs are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. While past-year nonmedical use of sedatives and tranquilizers decreased among 12th graders over the last 5 years, this is not the case for the nonmedical use of amphetamines or opioid pain relievers.
When asked how prescription opioids were obtained for nonmedical use, more than half of the 12th graders surveyed said they were given the drugs or bought them from a friend or relative. Interestingly, the number of students who purchased opioids over the Internet was negligible.
Youth who abuse prescription medications are also more likely to report use of other drugs. Multiple studies have revealed associations between prescription drug abuse and higher rates of cigarette smoking; heavy episodic drinking; and marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drug use among adolescents, young adults, and college students in the United States.
Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, and some experience cognitive decline, which could lead to improper use of medications. Alternatively, those on a fixed income may abuse another person’s remaining medication to save money.
The high rates of comorbid illnesses in older populations, age-related changes in drug metabolism, and the potential for drug interactions may make any of these practices more dangerous than in younger populations. Further, a large percentage of older adults also use OTC medicines and dietary supplements, which (in addition to alcohol) could compound any adverse health consequences resulting from prescription drug abuse.
What prescription drugs are commonly abused?
The prescription drugs that are commonly abused in the United States fall into several broad categories: opioids/narcotics/pain relievers, CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants, and stimulants. Individuals abuse these drugs because they are an easily accessible and inexpensive means of altering a user’s mental and physical state; the effects vary depending upon the drugs they abuse.
What are some of the commonly abused prescription drugs?
Although many medications can be abused, the following three classes are most commonly abused:
- Opioids—usually prescribed to treat pain;
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants—used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders; and
- Stimulants—most often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What are opioids?
Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs. Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine, on the other hand, is often prescribed for mild pain. In addition to their painrelieving properties, some of these drugs—codeine and diphenoxylate (Lomotil) for example—can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea.
- Opioids/Narcotics/Pain Relievers
- Common Brand Names:
- Dilaudid (Dust, Juice, Smack, D, Footballs)
- Lorcet (Pharmies, Beans, Hydro, Painkillers, Happy Pills)
- Lortab (Tab, Hydro, Norco, Vikes, Viko)
- Oxycontin (Hillbilly Heroin, Oxycet, Oxycotton)
- Oxycodone which includes Percocet, Percodan & Tylox (Percs, Paulas, Roxicotten, Roxi’s, Blue Dynamite, 512s)
- Vicodin (Happy Pills, Vikes)
What are CNS depressants?
CNS depressants, sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, are substances that can slow brain activity. This property makes them useful for treating anxiety and sleep disorders. Among the medications commonly prescribed for these purposes are the following:
Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax), are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks. The more sedating benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom) are prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders. Usually, benzodiazepines are not prescribed for longterm use because of the risk for developing tolerance, dependence, or addiction.
Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zalepon (Sonata), have a different chemical structure, but act on some of the same brain receptors as benzodiazepines. They are thought to have fewer side effects and less risk of dependence than benzodiazepines.
Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral), phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium), and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), are used less frequently to reduce anxiety or to help with sleep problems because of their higher risk of overdose compared to benzodiazepines. However, they are still used in surgical procedures and for seizure disorders.
- CNS Depressants
Common Brand Names:
- Barbiturates which include Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal And Phenobarbital (Barbs, Blue Birds, Phennies, Tooties, Yellows, Reds, Yellow Jackets, Amytal, Downers, Nembutal, Phenobarbital, Red Birds, Red Devils, Seconal, Tuninal)
- Benzodiazepines which include Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium Or Xanax (Candy, Downers, Sleeping Pills, And Tranks)
- Flunitrazepam which includes Rohypnol (Known as a leading ‘date-rape’ drug, Forget-Me Pill, Mexican Valium, R2, Roche, Roofies, Rope)
- Ketamine which includes Ketalar (Kat, Valium K, Special K, Vitamin K)
What are stimulants?
As the name suggests, stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Stimulants historically were used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems, obesity, neurological disorders, and a variety of other ailments. But as their potential for abuse and addiction became apparent, the medical use of stimulants began to wane. Now, stimulants are prescribed to treat only a few health conditions, including ADHD, narcolepsy, and occasionally depression—in those who have not responded to other treatments.
Common Brand Names:
- Amphetamines which include Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Desoxyn, ProCentra, Vyvanse and Biphetamine (Bennies, Black Beauties, Crosses, Hearts, LA Turnaround, Speed, Truck Drivers, Uppers)
- Methylphenidate which includes Ritalin (Jif, Mph, R-Ball, Skippy, The Smart Drug, Vitamin R, Kiddy Cocaine, West Coast)
How are prescription drugs abused?
Prescription drugs are abused in a variety of ways. Many of the prescription drugs that are commonly abused are available as tablets. Typically abusers either consume the tablets orally or crush them into a powder, which they then snort. In some instances, abusers dissolve crushed tablets in water and then inject the solution.
How many people suffer adverse health consequences from abusing prescription drugs?
The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which monitors emergency department (ED) visits in selected areas across the Nation, reported that approximately 1 million ED visits in 2009 could be attributed to prescription drug abuse. Roughly 343,000 involved prescription opioid pain relievers, a rate more than double that of 5 years prior. ED visits also more than doubled for CNS stimulants, involved in nearly 22,000 visits in 2009, as well as CNS depressants (anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics), involved in 363,000 visits. Of the latter, benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax) comprised the vast majority. Rates for a popular prescribed nonbenzodiazepine sleep aid, zolpidem (Ambien), rose from roughly 13,000 in 2004 to 29,000 in 2009. More than half of ED visits for prescription drug abuse involved multiple drugs.
One in five teens nationwide were reported abusing a prescription pain medication and one in ten reported abuse of a prescription stimulant. (The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)
More teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana—more than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined. (The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)
Local school officials privately express concern about the selling and easy access of prescription drugs in their schools. School administrators, however, are reluctant to speak publicly about the problem.
Experts don’t know exactly why this type of drug abuse is increasing. The availability of drugs is probably one reason. Doctors are prescribing more drugs for more health problems than ever before. Online pharmacies make it easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription, even for youngsters.
How are they obtained?
Prescription drugs are obtained in various ways. In some cases, unscrupulous pharmacists or other medical professionals either steal the drugs or sell fraudulent prescriptions. In a process known as doctor shopping, abusers visit several doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions. Individuals also call pharmacies with fraudulent prescription refills, or they alter prescriptions. Prescription drugs occasionally are stolen from pharmacies. Young people typically obtain prescription drugs from peers, friends, or family members. Some individuals who have legitimate prescriptions sell or give away their drugs. Young people also acquire prescription drugs by stealing them from relatives and other individuals with legitimate prescriptions or from school medicine dispensaries.
Is abusing prescription drugs illegal?
Yes, it is illegal to use prescription drugs without a valid prescription or to distribute them. The penalties associated with the abuse or illegal distribution of prescription drugs vary depending upon the drug type.
What are the penalties for possessing illegal prescription drugs in Texas?
Prescription drugs are offered legally through a prescription, however, possession of prescription pills without a legal prescription can land you in jail in Texas.
Sec. 481.115. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 1. (a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 1, unless the person obtained the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.
Sec. 481.117. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 3. (a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 3, unless the person obtains the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.
Possession With Intent to Distribute
Some states have laws making it illegal to be in possession of your own prescription drugs under certain circumstances. Most states have laws that make it illegal to carry around pills that are not in their labeled prescription bottle.
In other words, if you are carrying around pills that your doctor prescribed to you, but have them loose in your pocket or purse, that is illegal. The presumption is that you are carrying them in that manner so that you can distribute them.
Purchasing Prescription Drugs over the Internet
Federal law prohibits buying controlled substances such as narcotic pain relievers (e.g., OxyContin®, Vicodin®), sedatives (e.g., Valium®, Xanax®, Ambien®), stimulants (e.g., phentermine, phendimetrazine, Adderall®, Ritalin®) and anabolic steroids (e.g., Winstrol®, Equipoise®) without a valid prescription from your doctor. This means there must be a real doctor-patient relationship, which by most state laws requires a physical examination. Prescriptions written by “cyber doctors” relying on online questionnaires are not legitimate under the law.
Buying controlled substances online without a valid prescription may be punishable by imprisonment under Federal law. Often drugs ordered from rogue websites come from foreign countries. It is a felony to import drugs into the United States and ship to a non-DEA registrant.
Buying drugs online may not be only illegal, but dangerous. The American Medical Association and state boards of medicine and pharmacy have all condemned the practice of cyber doctors issuing online prescriptions as unacceptable medical care. Drugs delivered by rogue websites may be the wrong drugs, adulterated or expired, the wrong dosage strength, or have no dosage directions or warnings.
Hire the Best Houston Prescription Drugs Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Some people believe that crimes that involve prescription drugs are treated less seriously than crimes that involve marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs. This is not true, however, and the penalties for prescription drug crimes in Houston can be just as severe as penalties for illegal drug crimes. Depending on the type and amount of drug, the consequences could be significant.
If you have been charged with an offense involving illegal prescription medications, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can successfully represent you and protect your rights.
We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.
by Charles Johnson
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