Some serious changes are coming for South Carolina's drug possession laws.
New legislation aimed at addressing the growing opioid and heroin epidemic is making its way through the State House and Senate, and the South Carolina Attorney General is in the process of suing the maker of Oxycontin, one of the most well-known opioids on the market, for alleged deceptive marketing practices.
The Attorney General cites Purdue Pharma "downplaying the addictive quality" of the drug as one of the main alleged deceptions.
The State House and Senate aren't waiting for the outcome of the lawsuit, however: a slate of bills were introduced as early as February by a group of Republican state lawmakers intended to address the opioid epidemic from a legislative point of view.
We'll take a look at a few of these bills, and how they could affect prescription drug possession laws in South Carolina.
Physicians Required to Participate in Tracking System
The most notable bill in the stack, signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster in June, involves requiring doctors to participate in a prescription drug tracking database, allowing them to monitor more effectively what patients have been prescribed by other physicians.
The database is already operational, but only doctors who participate in Medicaid were previously required to use it.
Many privately-insured patients were not tracked, and could have received multiple opioid prescriptions from different doctors without any physicians being aware of it.
Representative Phyllis Henderson, from Greenville, told the Post and Courier that the state health department showed her numbers suggesting less than 30% of South Carolina doctors participated in the program prior to the change in law.
She further stated that other states that made participation in such a database mandatory saw dramatic decreases in opioid prescriptions, as well as lowered rates of abuse.
Potential Mandatory Reporting — and Potential Limited Immunity
Another noteworthy bill that could affect court cases involving possession of prescription drugs involves requiring medical professionals to report any suspicion of a baby from birth up to one year being exposed to opioids or other alcohol or controlled substances while in the womb to the Department of Social Services.
While this bill is still residing in conference committee, the Governor has indicated that he expects to sign it into law.
A "Good Samaritan" proposal linked to this legislation would provide a certain amount of immunity from prosecution to people who seek medical attention on behalf of someone overdosing, aimed at helping those who may fear getting someone help because they were the ones who delivered or dispensed the drugs or are in possession of illegal drugs.
What This Means for South Carolina Citizens
It will take time for every bill to make its way through the legislature, but a recent SC Governor's Opioid Summit, held September 6th and 7th in Columbia, promises to include push to motivate lawmakers to move more quickly.
There are steps you can take right now to prepare and to help fight prescription drug abuse in South Carolina:
- Ask if you can be prescribed something that is not an opioid. You and your doctor may find that non-opioid painkillers work just as well, with a lower potential for addiction.
- Don't lie to your doctor. Attempting to gain access to prescription drugs by using deceit is already illegal and could lead to 2 years in prison for a first offense. It's best to be honest with your physician.
- Educate your kids about prescription drug addiction. Even if you don't have a prescription yourself, it's still important to ensure your teen children are aware of the danger of addiction, even from occasional use, and that the penalty for being caught distributing or using prescription drugs unlawfully includes jail time and/or serious fines.
- Discuss pain management clinics and programs as an option. If you are prescribed an opioid for pain relief, speak with your doctor about pain management clinics and programs that can help you to manage serious pain while attempting to mitigate addiction.
- If you are charged with unlawful prescription drug possession in South Carolina, speak with a legal representative right away. A legal representative with experience working with prescription drug possession defense can help you understand potential ramifications and work with you to protect your individual rights.
The opioid and heroin crisis in South Carolina continues to grow. New legislation will continue to be introduced in a bid to lower rates of prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction in South Carolina.
Our Criminal Defense team is keeping a close eye on changes to the prescription drug possession laws in South Carolina, and we'll let you know how these proposed changes could affect you.
Charged With Prescription Drug Possession?
While the fines and jail sentences could derail your life, they don't have to. A legal representative may be able to help you with explaining the unique circumstances of your situation in a court of law and ensure that your individual rights are represented. At Bluestein Attorneys, we've represented individuals charged with possession and other drug-related charges and would be happy to sit down with you to discuss your situation.
Request your FREE consultation by giving us a call at (803) 779-7599 or contacting us online at any time!