When lawmakers and news pundits talk about the opioid crisis, they usually reference the uptick in prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths in recent years. Medical researchers have expanded the number of opioids available, reducing the cost to manage chronic and severe pain for patients while also diminishing the pressure on supply.
However, cheap and highly-powerful pain medications have also increased the number of people struggling with substance abuse disorders and the number of people who die from prescription medications. Many people become addicted after requiring narcotic pain relief for medical issues, while others access opioid medication on the unregulated market.
Due to the widespread and consequential nature of the challenges at issue, the opioid crisis in Texas can have a profound impact on someone’s prescription drug charges.
The crisis may cause someone’s charges
Police officers and regulatory officials have never been more focused on the prescribing habits of physicians and the behavior of individual patients. The push to crack down on opioid abuse has led to aggressive enforcement efforts whenever police officers suspect the distribution of opioids or even prescription fraud at a pharmacy. The enhanced focus on opioid dependence and prescription drug crimes might very well lead to someone’s arrest.
The response to the crisis may increase someone’s penalties
The consequences for a prescription drug offense may be more severe for those arrested for fentanyl and other narcotic pain relievers than in years prior. Prosecutors may bring the most severe charges they can justify given the circumstances, and judges may sentence people more harshly because of their awareness of how opioid addiction has affected people across the state. The penalties for certain drugs are already more serious than the penalties for other substances. Opioids are among the most dangerous drugs to possess in Texas based on the possible penalties, and that doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon.
In fact, lawmakers have already sought to increase the penalties assessed for opioid possession and trafficking offenses in early 2023, with a bill proposing enhanced penalties gaining momentum in the legislature. Those accused of the illegal possession or distribution of fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone or other opioid drugs could very well end up facing harsh jail sentences and other penalties under current Texas laws and proposed changes to the existing statutes.
Seeking legal guidance to better ensure an appropriate and effective response to prescription drug charges, possibly by mounting a defense or requesting a hearing in drug court, can potentially benefit those who have been accused of violating controlled substances laws in Texas.