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Prescription painkiller dependence can lead to criminal charges

It's a frighteningly common story. Someone gets hurt in an accident or develops a serious medical condition, like cancer. Doctors prescribe narcotic painkillers to help that person cope with the pain associated with the diagnosis. Patients taking these medications can quickly become dependent on these potent drugs. After a few weeks or months, even if the pain remains an issue, the doctor ends the prescription, leaving the patient vulnerable and desperate for relief.

Many of these individuals will turn to unscrupulous medical professionals or even street drug dealers to stave off the pain they feel and the agony of withdrawal. That can result in drug-related criminal charges that can ruin someone's future.

Opiate and opioid painkillers are physically addictive

When you take opiate and opioid painkillers, your body quickly develops a tolerance. That means that you will need increasingly large doses to obtain the same effect. The more you need to take to reduce your pain, the more susceptible you may become to serious addiction.

Narcotic painkillers are both physically and psychologically addictive. People will experience a number of serious side effects when they can't access these medications, including headaches, nausea, sweating, anxiety and fatigue accompanied by an inability to sleep. They may also feel hopeless or like they can't function properly without the medication on which they depend.

Pennsylvania law criminalizes prescription drug abuse

Those who develop an addiction to painkillers may not feel like they can come forward to get help. Instead, they may just find a reliable source of pills. That could be a doctor who writes prescriptions for excess medication or a black market drug dealer. Regardless of how people seek out these pills, they risk criminal charges by abusing them.

Possessing prescription painkillers without a valid prescription is a criminal offense. Even if you have a prescription, if law enforcement can make a case that you were intentionally abusing the pills or taking them in a manner other than how your doctor recommended, that could also be grounds for criminal charges. If you get caught purchasing pills from a drug dealer, that could lead to criminal charges, too.

Addicts need support, not criminal records and shame

If addiction played a role in a pending drug charge related to prescription pills, you should carefully consider all of your defense options. Simply pleading guilty could mean getting saddled with a criminal record that will haunt you for life. You may need to explore other options, like the possibility of completing substance abuse therapy or in-patient rehabilitation in lieu of a criminal conviction.

Advocating for yourself can be difficult, but recovery from addiction is possible. You should do your best to approach pending criminal charges calmly and focus on protecting your future. Although Pennsylvania does criminalize many aspects of addiction, it may be possible to reduce the impact of your charges.

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