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Are doctors responsible for opioid crisis?

Maryland residents and those in all other states are likely to have heard at least a little about the opioid crisis in the U.S. The gist of the issue is that a lot of Americans are now hooked on opioid painkillers, prescribed by their doctors.

CNN reports that more and more, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is holding doctors responsible for patient overdoses. Some are being charged with murder. The first one to be convicted was California’s Dr. Hsiu-Ying Tsend in 2015, who is serving a minimum, 30-year prison sentence. In 2016, a Texas doctor was charged with illegally distributing pills to seven patients who died. Another doctor in Oklahoma faces murder charges in five cases.

The DEA is taking a hard look at doctors’ responsibility in cases like these, which is borne out by comparing the number of doctors it took action against in 2011 (88) to those in 2016 (479). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that doctors prescribed enough hydrocodone in 2010 to supply all adults for a month. Patients who are most likely to overdose are getting their pills from their doctor. Even more surprising, the CDC says that 91 percent of those who survive an overdose continue to get opioid prescriptions.

The other side of the story is that many doctors say they are falsely accused, and other cases have ended in dismissals of charges, acquittals The CDC says prosecuting doctors is relatively rare, and although investigations will continue, the agency has launched a campaign to educate doctors in the responsible prescription of opioids for pain management.

This article contains general information and is not meant to be taken as legal advice.

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