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Florida House Bill 477 Targets Opioid Abuse in Florida

The State of Florida is ramping up it’s fight against opioid addiction. Earlier this year, Governor Scott declared a statewide public health emergency against opioid abuse. More recently, Governor Scott signed a new Florida law, House Bill 477, which will impose stricter penalties for those convicted of dealing and using pills, heroin, opioids and fentanyl and the overuse of opioid prescriptions. As of today, Florida has new penalties and enhanced laws related to synthetic opioid drugs. There are mandatory minimum sentences for possession of fentanyl and its derivatives. House Bill 477 states that: Controlled Substances; Provides that certain crime laboratory personnel may possess, store, & administer emergency opioid antagonists; provides that unlawful distribution of specified controlled substances & analogs or mixtures thereof which proximately cause death is murder; adds certain synthetic opioid substitute compounds to Schedule I; prohibits possession of more than 10 grams of specified substances; revises substances that constitute certain trafficking offenses; creates certain trafficking offenses; provides specified minimum terms of imprisonment & fines based on quantity involved in for certain offenses. Effective Date: 10/1/2017 It is very clear that we are in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis. Prescription abuse, opioid and heroin overdose is on the rise. But why is this new law so important to understand? First, H.B. 477 sets mandatory minimum sentences for opioid users and dealers. These mandatory minimum sentences take away any and all discretion that a judge may use when evaluating the case of someone grappling with addiction. H.B.477 specifically states that synthetic opioids are now Schedule 1 narcotics unless used for pharmaceutical purposes. When a drug is labelled under Schedule 1 that means anyone convicted of possessing more than 4 grams of fentanyl is subject to a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison. Anyone convicted of possessing more than 14 grams of fentanyl faces serving 15 years in prison and possession of more than 28 grams faces 25 years in prison. In addition to the new law, Governor Scott has proposed new legislation to help enforce this new law and fight the opioid abuse epidemic. Here’s what Governor Scott is pushing for – a $50 million dollar boost in funding and allow for only a three day supply of an opioid prescription. It would also require opioid prescribers to use the Florida Drug Monitoring Program, a database created in 2009 as part of the fight against pain mills. It’s important, now more than ever, to know what is in your prescription, and that HB 477 can have a serious impact on an ordinary user not just a dealer. Judges have no discretion when it comes to mandatory minimum sentences. At Moses and Rooth we understand the severity this new law. We will be able to evaluate the evidence in your case and aggressively defend you against the charges.

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Prescription pills supply is low so Krokodil is moving to Orlando

Krokodil (pronounced like crocodile) has certainly hit the streets of the United State and spreading to Orlando. Even as a criminal attorney for over 10 years, I was surprised to hear about this drug and the dangers associated with it. However, Krokodil is hitting the streets and spreading across the country as a cheap heroin knockoff from Russia. I attribute the spread of this drug to the government’s intensive crack down on prescription pills including opiates (Oxycodone, oxycontin, etc) and then providing minimal treatment options. Law enforcement doesn’t truly understand the strength of these opiates and the difficulty dealing with the addiction. These addicts need options for intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment therapy which are currently limited in most communities. The opiate addicts went running to all the next best options when the prescription pills supply diminished. Many of the opiate abusers ran to heroin, but when the supply of heroin runs thin we will start to see Krokodil spring up. The drug can be easily cooked up at a home with readily available household items. This drug is also known as desomorphine which is made from the painkiller codeine tablets combined with substances like gasoline, hydrochloric acid, paint thinner or lighter fluids. Krokodil is attractive to the addicts who are looking for a cheaper and better high. However, the drug actually rots the skin from the inside out. The name alone comes from the scaly black or green appearance of the skin once the gangrene starts to settle in.

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Oxycodone prescription pills deaths down and Heroin deaths UP

FDLE makes a press release on September 24, 2013 boasting about prescription drug deaths falling across Florida. The supply of the drugs has been shut down so much that doctors and pharmacists are scared to prescribe and fill certain opiate pain medication. Doctors and pharmacists have been the target over prosecution across the state. We need FDLE and the state of Florida to start boasting about all the treatment facilities and education programs available for these overly addictive drugs. The State of Florida should be proud of the reduction in the prescription drug deaths, however more needs to be done. So what happens when the prescription pills supply are cut off by the government? Heroin starts to skyrocket. A close look at the Drug caused deaths in 2010, 2011, and 2012 clearly show a consistent increase in deaths associated with Heroin. The 2012 deaths from Heroin is almost double from the 2011 calendar year. As a criminal attorney in Orlando, I have the opportunity to see the effects of the prescription pills and particularly opiates. We often see individuals who are involved in a minor accident and then a doctor overprescribes the opiates. Before they know it, they become addicted and will do whatever it takes to get the drug. Unfortunately, the treatment available is very limited especially for individuals who may not have the private funds or a great insurance plan. Rather than press releases on reduction in deaths, we need press releases on education and treatment opportunities. Source: Florida Department of law Enforcement

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FDA Finally Wakes up with new Opioid Labeling, but still not enough

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced a new requirement for prescription pills containing Opioids, such as Oxycontin to have starker warning labels. Its pretty pathetic for the FDA to now (Spetember 2013) be releasing this requirement and statement: “FDA is extremely concerned about the inappropriate use in opioids, which has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and has become a major public health challenge,”. Unreal! Opioids have been an epidemic for years and the FDA is just now releasing this precaution. This is still not enough for our local communities and youth who are struggling with the addiction. These labels should have been placed on the drug as soon as the FDA approved the drugs for distribution. Some of the most commonly abused opioids are: Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet) Propoxyphene (Darvon) Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet) Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) Meperidine (Demerol) Diphenoxylate (Lomotil) Morphine (Cadian, Avinza, MS Contin) Codeine Methadone Fentanyl (Duragesic) The new labels will indicate that the drugs are intended for pain “severe enough to require daily, around the clock, long term opioid treatment and for which alternative options are inadequate.” Furthermore the label will indicate because of the risks of addiction, abuse and misuse even for patients which use the drug as directed – opioids should be used only for patients for whom other treatments are not sufficient. What is the FDA trying to accomplish with this labeling? Its too little too late. Too many of our youths are addicted to the opioids that have been over prescribed by the doctors for years. We need treatment programs in our communities to overcome these addictions not labels. Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/fda-announces-new-labeling-rules-for-opioid-painkillers-including-oxycodone/2013/09/10/b722281a-1a30-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

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Orange County Commissioners vote on Pain Clinic Regulation

Orange County Commissioners voted to limit and regulate where new pain management clinics can open.  New pain clinics will now be restricted to industrial zoning areas.  These new restrictions were recommendations based upon Orange County’s prescription drug task force and is an attempt to limit prescription pill abuse. Clearly, prescription drug abuse is an epidemic not only in Orlando but throughout the state of Florida and the country.  This abuse has caused a spike in arrests for drug trafficing as well as doctor shopping.  As a criminal defense attorney practicing in Orlando I see the dangers of these drugs and their addictive nature.  Perhaps limiting these clinics to industrial zoning areas will prohibit a potential blight to the community that they otherwise would have moved into but I am not sure how it will reduce the amount of drugs in the system or their abuse. If commissioners in Orange County or Orlando want to see a decrease in prescription drug abuse try making it easier for those who want help for their addiction to get it.  Increase education of the addictive nature of these drugs before it becomes an issues. Zoning restrictions seem to have an out of sight out of mind attitude.

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Warrants issued for Prescription Pills Trafficking Ring

Law enforcement agencies across Central Florida are continuing their attack on the illegal possession of prescription pills and sale of prescription drugs. Over the past several months law enforcement agencies including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) have added more officers, detectives and agents to combat the overwhelming increase in illegal possession of the prescription drugs. With this increase in law enforcement, the Courts across Central Florida have clearly seen a growth in illegal prescription drug cases. Over the last 11 months, a number of these law enforcement agencies have been working a criminal investigation in Marion County that led to 43 individual arrests for over 200 felonies. The target of the investigation was into the trafficking of thousands of Oxycodone and methadone pills. An Orlando Sentinel article indicated that the “ringleader” formed the organization that included several operators and reselling prescription pills for $15 to $20 a piece resulting in over $100,000 in profits. This investigation is a clear indication of the focus and dedication of resources that the local law enforcement agencies are willing to dedicate to this pill epidemic. Local law enforcement agencies are working together with DEA and FDLE in order to share resources and make these types of arrests across Central Florida. With the assistance of these Federal and State agencies the local law enforcement officers are targeting larger rings of trafficking the pills,doctor shopping, pill mills, and the doctors who are alleged to have been overprescribing the medications.

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As Prosecutors crack down on Prescription Pills, Manufactures increase potency

Prescription Pill abuse has forced law enforcement agencies across the country to target pain clinics and pain management doctors. As law enforcement cracks down on the abuse of prescription pills, an article written by the Daily Mail Reporter indicates that at least four manufactures are in the process of patenting the addictive ingredient hydrocodone in a pure form. Do we really need a “pure form” of hydrocodone? The Pharmaceutical companies will have doctors argue that this is just another “tool” for doctors to manage pain. However, the overwhelming addiction abuse associated with these pain medications has forced law enforcement and legislatures to increase penalties for illegally possessing these pain medications. The article in the Daily Mail, quotes Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing who told CBS: ‘You’ve got a person on your product for life, and a doctor’s got a patient who’s never going to miss an appointment, because if they did and they didn’t get their prescription, they would feel very sick. ‘It’s a terrific business model, and that’s what these companies want to get in on.’ These drug companies are going to produce a drug that is 10 times stronger than Vicodin. The reality is that the increased potency is going to lead to an increase in addiction and an increase in Pharmaceutical drug crimes. Some responsibility needs to come from the pharmaceutical drug manufacturers. Even as the criminal penalties increase, pharmaceutical manufacturers should have some type of ethical and legal responsibility to control its distribution.

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