Pennsylvania law enforcement set to focus on prescription drug crimes

In the past, lawmakers and law enforcement officials were most concerned with preventing the trafficking and sale of drugs including cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Although police and prosecutors are still on the lookout for these sorts of substances, a recent spate of overdose deaths has officials in Pennsylvania stepping up efforts to investigate drug crimes involving prescription medications.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked the emergence of the prescription drug problem in the U.S. in recent years. In 2007, the last year for which statistics are available, overdose deaths involving prescription drugs such as Percocet, Vicodin and other narcotic analgesics far outnumbered those involving heroin and cocaine. In fact, that year, prescription drug overdoses killed four times as many people as those involving heroin and twice as many as those involving cocaine.

Unfortunately, all indications are that this trend has continued in recent years, and Pennsylvania has not been immune. According to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Health Statistics and Research, the number of deaths involving the illicit use of prescription medications has skyrocketed. A recent study by the nonprofit group Trust for America's Health found that the statewide rate of deaths due to prescription drug overdose is 15.3 percent per 100,000 people. This is the highest rate in the U.S.

The magnitude of the prescription drug problem in Pennsylvania is not unknown to federal prosecutors. Investigators have recently begun focusing on stopping those who illegally supply individuals with oxycodone, hydrocodone, benzodiazepines and other drugs. In one recent case, investigators discovered that a doctor was writing prescriptions for these powerful drugs without ever meeting patients.

Right now, multiple bills are making their way through the Pennsylvania Legislature that aim to address the illegal use of prescription drugs. Specifically, these bills would create a database of information about prescriptions for some medications. The hope is that increased monitoring will lead to fewer problems. Although there seems to be strong support for these efforts among lawmakers, some have expressed concerns about whether there are adequate safeguards to protect patient safety.

The reality is that the penalties for trafficking in or illegally possessing prescription drugs are harsh. If you are currently under investigation or have been arrested for a drug crime, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. Getting good legal advice is key to protecting your rights. Speak to a criminal defense lawyer for more information.