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Escalating opioid crisis could lead to new legislation

The opioid epidemic continues to plague our country as drug crimes continue to increase, and lawmakers have started to propose new rules aimed at combating the epidemic. Lawmakers have the daunting task of balancing enforcement of drug laws with rehabilitating people affected by opioid addiction. One of these lawmakers, Governor Rick Scott of Florida, has proposed legislation that would place additional legal responsibility on opioid prescribers.

For example, the new laws would place a three-day limit on opioid medication; however, if stricter conditions are met, the patient may receive a seven-day supply. Additionally, the new laws would force opioid prescribers to work with a local database that monitors prescriptions, and pain management clinics would be required to engage in educational courses that are targeted at safely prescribing potentially addictive substances. In sum, the legislation shifts the focus away from law enforcement and individuals affected with opioid addiction.

Anyone that is prescribed opioids can run afoul of today's drug laws, so a potential arrest for a drug-related crime does not necessarily mean that the arrestee is a common criminal, nor is it a comment on their character. Law enforcement, however, has the difficult task of enforcing drug crimes as they are written. The language dictating what constitutes a drug crime is often written in such a way that any deviation from a prescription is considered a serious crime.

As the opioid epidemic continues to spread across the country, it is important to understand the legal duties and obligations of holding a prescription. If you are currently prescribed opioids, it is important to be mindful of the consequences of misusing your prescription. Many Americas are prescribed opioids to treat acute or chronic pain, and it all it takes is one accident to put you on law enforcement's radar.

Source: Bradenton Herald, "Gov. Scott wants time limit on opioid prescriptions," Sarah Nealeigh, Sep. 26, 2017

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