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Prescription Drug Arrests in Pittsburgh Likely to Spike

Prescription Drug Arrests in Pittsburgh Likely to Spike


Prescription drugs are behind a growing number of Pittsburgh drug arrests, as the medications become more widely available.

Our Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers know that even when their sources do dry up, the side effect of harsh law enforcement crack downs, addicts find themselves seeking out heroin, which is readily available and also cheaper.

All of this inevitably leads not only to more crime, but a higher rate of deaths due to drug overdoses or drug-related incidents.

For someone in the throes of addiction, having a strong criminal defense lawyer who can advocate for treatment, as opposed to harsh jail and prison terms, can mean the difference between hopelessness and a second chance.

Showing how easily the prescription drugs can be obtained, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently profiled an individual who, upon his release from federal prison on charges of hawking oxycodone, went straight back to selling pills. Only his second scheme involved actually printing out prescription orders on his home computer. These were scripts that were rife with spelling and grammatical errors - and yet they continued to be filled by local pharmacies.

And even for those who obtain it legally, there is the concern about their teens getting their hands on it. In fact, U.S. prosecutors have pointed to so-called "pharma parties," where teens all scrape together the medications they can get from their parents' medicine cabinets, put it in a bowl and each take a fistful.

That prospect is frightening, not only in terms of the short-term medical consequences, but also with regard to the long-term risks of addiction - and the subsequent crimes that inevitably come along with that.

For those who sell these drugs, the sentences are often stiff. Take for example the individual caught printing his own prescriptions. He is accused of selling some 1.6 kilos of prescription drugs. According to federal law, that breaks down to the equivalent of 11,000 kilos of marijuana, and under sentencing guidelines, he's facing a prison sentence of between 14 to 17 years.

Doctors, too, are getting wrapped up in this. One recently pleaded guilty in May to charges of improper distribution of narcotics and health care fraud. He was sentenced to more than 11 years behind bars.

For some doctors, the concern is that if they don't continue to prescribe this medication, their patients may make that even more dangerous transition to heroin. So in a sense, they are actually trying to help by upholding their oath to do no harm.

However, a strong criminal defense lawyer will be needed to make that case to a judge or jury.