Pain pill abuse an "epidemic" in Minnesota, leading many to criminal charges

A recent summit at the U of M attempted to address the large problem of prescription pain medication abuse and addiction in the state. Drug crimes associated with pain medication abuse remain life-altering for many in the state.

On August 25, 2015, health care professionals, law enforcement, government officials and others gathered at the Northrup Auditorium to address the state's large prescription pain medication problem. The University of Minnesota sponsored the summit, along with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the Mayo Clinic.

No easy solution

"How did this explode?" Governor Mark Dayton asked a crowd of over a thousand at the "Pain. Pill. Problem." conference. Gov. Dayton went on to say that "we created this problem."

Other speakers noted how a few surgeries, back problems and other sources of chronic pain can turn a patient trying to manage pain into someone constantly searching for a source of oxycodone, hydrocodone and other powerful painkillers. Dr. Michael Hooton, a pain medication specialist at the Mayo Clinic, told Kare 11 News that data suggests as many as one in four people in Minnesota use pain medication for longer than prescribed.

About 19,000 Minnesotans currently receive prescription pain medication, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Many more obtain prescription drugs through illegal means, including from out of state.

Senator Amy Klobuchar also spoke at the conference, calling prescription drug abuse in the state a "crisis" for which the state should leave "no stone unturned" in attempting to eliminate.

Crimes associated with prescription drug abuse

Helping people suffering from substance abuse issues recover from prescription pain medication addiction is a noble, if not easy, goal. Unfortunately, many people currently in the grip of substance abuse issues are left facing criminal charges in the wake of their disease.

The good news is that there is a growing awareness that addiction is a medical condition, not a personal or moral failing. Yet as part of the disease, many people resort to activity they previously would never have thought of doing, including theft, prescription drug fraud and other crimes. Painkiller addiction is also a gateway into heroin use for many, which can lead to further drug possession charges. Four out of five heroin users began with prescription pain medication, Sen. Klobuchar noted during the summit.

What to do if you have been charged with a crime

While there is more understanding about the nature of drug abuse and addiction, a crime is still a crime. People charged with drug crimes and related offenses are facing significant penalties.

While Minnesota explores options for dealing with the prescription pain epidemic, people who are facing criminal charges need their own immediate help. Minnesota takes crimes associated with prescription pain medication seriously. Not understanding your rights during the process can lead to even further consequences.

At Groshek Law, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help people facing drug crime charges protect their rights and explore every legal option, including the potential for alternative sentencing such as drug treatment counseling. Contact our office to discuss your situation.