Prescription Drugs, Doctor Shopping, and College Students in Criminal Law

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Prescription drug abuse kills more than 7 people in Florida every day. In 2010 there were 2,710 prescription drug deaths in Florida, with Oxycodone causing almost 3 times as many deaths as cocaine and heroin combined. In an effort to stem this public health crisis, Florida enacted tough new laws in 2011 aimed at strengthening its regulation over pain management clinics, increasing criminal penalties for the illegal use and dispensing or prescription drugs and implementing a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (“PDMP” also known as “E-FORCSE”). The law now requires doctors and pharmacists to report certain controlled substances (e.g. Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocet, Klonopin, Xanax, Valium, etc.) to the PDMP no later than 7 days from the date of the dispensing. Law Enforcement can then gain access to information in the PDMP to identify possible “doctor shoppers.” Under Florida law, a “doctor shopper” is a person who, when seeking a controlled substance from a practitioner, fails to inform the practitioner that he or she received a prescription for a controlled substance with “like therapeutic use” from another practitioner within the previous 30 days. In other words, there is an affirmative duty on your part to inform your doctor about prior similar prescriptions even if your doctor does not ask you about it. Failure to do so is a third degree felony in Florida under section 893.13(1)(a)8, Florida Statutes. While it has always been a good idea to be as thorough as possible with your doctor about your medical history because your life may depend on it, it also makes sense because your liberty may depend on it to.

As serious as prescription drug abuse is, so is taking prescription medicines that you do not have a prescription for. Probably one of the most abused drugs on college campuses these days is Adderall (and to a lesser extent, Ritalin). Although Adderall does not rank high in death related cases like Oxycodone and Benzodiazepines, it is possible to overdose on this amphetamine based drugs. Adderall is typically prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder but is commonly used on campuses due to its stimulant qualities that vies its user laser-like focus. Scientists call them “cognitive enhancers” and students call them “study drugs” or “smart drugs.” Students without prescriptions typically use these drugs during exams so they can cram all night and still remain focused on exam day. Most students get Adderall from friends who have legitimate prescriptions for the drug. However, a word of warning to both parties; merely having one Adderall in your possession without a prescription is a third degree felony in Florida punishable up to five years in prison. It is in fact the same level offense as having an “eight ball” or (3.5 grams) of cocaine on you. And for the person who even gives their Adderall away? You can be prosecuted for distributing a controlled substance which is also a third degree felony. To be sure, there is a certain societal acceptance of prescription drugs in our country which makes people believe they are safer than illegal street drugs like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. However, do not be fooled. Prescription drugs have been killing more people than these street drugs for the last few years. Furthermore, the criminal penalties associated with their possession and delivery are at least as punitive, if not more, than those assigned to cocaine, heroin, etc. Doing well in school is important, bot not nearly as important as your health or your freedom. Please keep this in mind while you prepare for exams, and good luck.

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