Michael C. Hennenberg

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Pharmacists can run into trouble with opioids

Pharmacists need to be very careful with opioids. They can find themselves in legal trouble even when they did not know that anyone was abusing the drugs or using them improperly. This is a response to the opioid crisis, which has led to a lot of abuse and overdose deaths, and pharmacists need to know what warning signs to look out for.

One of the most common signs of opioid abuse is extensive use that does not seem to match up with the population in a specific area. This could mean that the drugs are getting abused and used too often or that they are getting distributed to other people in other areas.

For instance, in one case, a pharmacy in a town of 1,394 people requested 2.6 million hydrocodone pills and over 2.3 million oxycodone pills. This led to legal charges against the distributor, as reports called these totals "obvious signs of abuse."

The authorities cracked down and made several arrests. After they did so, the DEA Assistant put out a statement that said in part that the arrests needed to work as a "wakeup call to distributors and pharmacists." He said that they were "allowing" the pills to be dispensed and sold illegally.

Of course, a statement like that raises all sorts of questions. How much do pharmacists actually know about what is being done with the drugs? Could an honest mistake lead to legal charges? If someone else breaks the law, perhaps by illegally obtaining a prescription, what responsibility does a pharmacist have to step in?

Those who do end up getting arrested must know what legal defense options they have.

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