Recently, a physician in northern Virginia received a 7-year jail sentence for running what prosecutors referred to as a "pill mill," illegally prescribing at least $1.2 million worth of drugs to clients.
The case is yet another example of the ongoing opioid crisis so many states across the US have battled for years. Today, we're exploring opioid use in Virginia and how the Virginia government has reacted to the ongoing issue of overly or illegally prescribed pain medication in our state.
At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we handle drug crimes and personal injury cases for clients. We'll work with you to find the best path forward in your case.
What's the Story Behind Opioids in the US?
Awareness among the public of an opioid crisis sweeping the US first began to grow around 2014 or 2015. By 2016, the widespread abuse of prescription pain killers—primarily prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, codeine, and hydrocodone—was a talking point across the nation.
Then-President-Elect Donald Trump made combatting the opioid crisis a key issue of his early administration, pointing towards the abuse of prescription opioids as a potential reason to repeal the Affordable Care Act instituted by former President Barack Obama.
In 2017, under President Trump, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officially declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
In 2018 alone, 10.3 million Americans misused prescription opioids, 47,600 people died from overdosing on them, and 2 million Americans had an opioid use disorder (more commonly known as an addiction to opioids).
Those statistics were considered more than enough justification for the public health emergency order. It also coincided with the rise of fentanyl, an opioid commonly used to treat individuals with painful and terminal illnesses, as a cutting agent in other drugs, such as heroin. Fentanyl is incredibly dangerous even in small doses, and its appearance in illegal substances as a cutting agent dramatically increased overdose-related deaths across the US.
How Is Virginia Combatting the Opioid Crisis?
Cities across Virginia, such as Alexandria, responded to the opioid crisis by aggressively expanding treatment programs for opioid addiction and treatment. Encouraging opioid users to seek help at official treatment facilities enabled states across the US to tamp down on the opioid crisis and meaningfully expand treatment programs.
It appears to be working. In 2018, drug overdose deaths involving opioids in West Virginia fell from 833 in 2017 to 702 in 2018. Additionally, the number of deaths involving prescription opioids fell from 14,996 to 14,975.
However, the opioid crisis in Virginia and West Virginia is far from over. Deaths involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, rose—more than 24,800 individuals overdosed on fentanyl or similar drugs in 2018. Almost 70% of overdose deaths in West Virginia involved opioids.
In Virginia, the abuse or selling of Schedule II substances, such as prescription opioids and illegal substances, including methamphetamine, is penalized by a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $2,500.
At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we'll work with you to pursue an optimal outcome in your drug crimes case.