Drug abuse is a serious problem in our society. In an effort to combat this issue, several drug-related laws have been passed to restrict and control specific substances. It is important to note that not all of these controlled substances are illegal -- for instance, prescription drugs such as morphine and xanax. It is just that these substances have often been abused by some individuals and so there is a necessity to make them less accessible to people who do not really need them.
In the USA, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) has been enacted specifically to act as a guide in the production, sale, purchase, and use of specific drugs. Furthermore, this act defines six categories of these substances, called “schedules”. The method of categorizing these drugs is through evaluating them based on a set of factors, such as its medical value and potential for abuse, with Schedule 1 having the lowest medical value and highest potential for abuse. See the complete list of schedules below:
- Schedule 1: Marijuana, opiates, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, mescaline
- Schedule 2: Morphine, cocaine, adderall, methadone
- Schedule 3: Anabolic steroids, tylenol with codeine, testosterone, ketamine
- Schedule 4: Xanax, cathine, diazepam, fenfluramine
- Schedule 5: Cough suppressants and other lesser-controlled prescription drugs
Considering how most of these substances are found in pharmacies, it is no wonder why medical professionals have the heaviest and most important role in the enforcement of CSA. Therefore, if they prescribe any controlled substance to a person without legitimate purpose, they could face legal consequences. This is explicitly stated under California Health and Safety Code HSC 11153. It states that a prescription is not legally acceptable if:
- It is not issued in the usual course of professional treatment nor is it supported by legitimate and authorized research, and
- It is issued to an addict or habitual user of controlled substances which is not part of an authorized narcotic treatment program to keep him/her comfortable by maintaining customary use.
While the prescribing medical practitioner is held more accountable in these cases, HSC 11153 also states that the pharmacists who fill the unauthorized prescription are likewise responsible.
Some examples of medical practitioners violating California Health and Safety Code HSC 11153 are as follows:
- Dr. A has been seeing a young lady who regularly visits his clinic allegedly because of mysterious body pains. He has been prescribing her with morphine every time she comes to his office, but he has increasingly become skeptical of her claims and worries that she might not actually be telling the truth. One day, the doctor finally decided to confront her in one of her visits and she confessed to being addicted to morphine. The lady then begged the doctor to keep prescribing morphine for her because she fears of the side effects that might come with drug withdrawal. The doctor agrees even though he is technically not authorized to supply drug addicts with controlled substances.
- One day, a man went to the hospital for a check-up after noticing that he has been unusually tired and fatigued in the last couple of days. He was scheduled to a resident doctor, who then prescribed ecstasy to the man. The resident doctor claimed that he himself has been taking the substance whenever he feels drained. Since it worked for him, he suggested that it should do the job for the man as well.
- You are a family medicine doctor and your brother has been going in and out of rehab for his drug addiction. After years of failed therapy, you decided that there is no other way to help your brother but to support his addiction. Ever since then, you have been writing prescriptions for different kinds of drugs for your brother to use.
These are the following offenses related to HSC 11153:
- Unlawful prescription;
- Doctor shopping;
- Counterfeiting a prescription blank; and
- Possession of a controlled substance
Penalties for Prescribing Controlled Substances Without Purpose
Violating California Health and Safety Code HSC 11153 could be either a misdemeanor or a felony offense, depending on the circumstances of your case.
For a misdemeanor offense, the penalties are:
- A county jail sentence of up to 1 year; and/or
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
For a felony offense, the penalties are:
- Either 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail; and/or
- A fine not exceeding $20,000
Call Us For Help
As a medical practitioner, being accused of prescribing controlled substances without legitimate medical purpose could significantly damage your reputation as a professional. If you are currently facing this type of charge, we urge you to reach out to our office as we will make sure that our team of criminal defense attorneys will help you during these challenging times.
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