Codeine: Law and order

Last modified: Thursday, 25. December 2008 - 10:29 am

Law enforcement groups at both state and national levels agree that crime related to prescription drug abuse is a serious problem. Despite this, very little attention and few resources are allocated to address the issue. According to a 1996 article in the Los Angeles Times, just 0.5% of all federal money spent on the war on drugs at that time went toward investigating and prosecuting prescription drug offenses. One example from the Los Angeles Times clearly illustrates the discrepancy that also exists in how perpetrators of prescription drug and illegal drug crimes are punished. Eric Tucker, a physician in California, pleaded guilty to issuing fraudulent prescriptions for the opioid drug Dilaudid, also known as “drugstore heroin.” At the time of his arrest, the number of prescribed doses for Dilaudid that had come out of Tucker’s office each year exceeded that of County-USC Medical Center, the largest public hospital on the west coast. He also issued more than 7,000 bogus prescriptions for the powerful stimulant Preludin. In total, Tucker was thought to have put millions of doses of powerfully addictive narcotic drugs on the illegal prescription drug market. At about the same time, a man from Los Angeles, Daniel Siemianowski, was convicted of possession of 4 oz (113 g) of crack and powder cocaine — his first offense. A comparison by weight would show that the amount of drugs in Siemianowski’s possession was about the same as just 12 prescriptions written for 30 Dilaudid tablets each by Tucker. Siemianowski was sentenced to a year in jail, while Tucker lost his medical license and spent just eight days in jail. Most other cases in which a physician or dentist is convicted of a prescription drug crime also involve comparatively lenient sentences.

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