Dr. Joel Smithers, 36, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Abingdon. He was found guilty in May of more than 800 counts of illegally prescribing opioids, including oxycodone and oxymorphone that killed a West Virginia woman.
Smithers prescribed more than 500,000 doses of opioids to patients from Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee while based in Martinsville, Va., from 2015 to 2017, authorities said.
This physician perpetuated, on a massive scale, the vicious cycle of addiction and despair.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said Smithers’ sentence, while severe, “serves as just punishment” for his actions. “This physician perpetuated, on a massive scale, the vicious cycle of addiction and despair,” Cullen said in a statement. 10 OVERDOSE DEATHS IN OHIO COUNTRY IN 26-HOUR PERIOD, CORONER SAYS Smithers, a married father of five from Greensboro, N.C., testified that he was a caring doctor who was deceived by some of his patients. Some patients remained fiercely loyal to him, testifying that they needed the powerful opioids he prescribed to cope with chronic pain. Judge James Jones recommended that Smithers serve his sentence in a prison close to his family, and that he receive mental health treatment, WSET-TV reported. Smithers was also ordered to pay an $86,000 fine and serve three years of supervised release after his prison term, according to court documents. Smithers prescribed more than 500,000 doses of opioids to patients from Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee while based in Martinsville, Va., from 2015 to 2017, authorities said.U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said Smithers’ sentence, while severe, “serves as just punishment” for his actions. “This physician perpetuated, on a massive scale, the vicious cycle of addiction and despair,” Cullen said in a statement.
The U.S. Government Acts
As the Government tries to stem the tied of the opioid crisis, more and more opioid doctos face jail. Under the Trump administration, it has become a national priority to leave no stone unturned while attempting to address the growing opioid epidemic. Actions like these are just the beginning. As cities suffer from a surge of homeless people, studies show that nearly 80% are substance abusers. As State and Federal funds run out to help address the problem, both branches of government will inevitably move towards denying any services to those who are not willing to seek treatment. This can only result in addicts suffering even more dire consequences if they don’t seel treatment. While this conviction is a good start toward setting an example for distreputable doctors, it sends a clear message – opioid doctors face jail if they step out of line.
There’s Plenty of Blame to Go Around
The opioid crisis didn’t happen overnight. It took decades to get to this point. Heroin and other opioids have been around for decades, but the addiction crisis really took a somber turn when prescription opioids made their way into their general population It started when big pharma companies introduced these drugs to doctors and provided perks, bribes, trips, gifts and lavish incentives to prescribe their products. Big pharma is now being held acccoutable too, with major lawsuits in recent news. It remains to be see whether of not big pharma executives will do any jail time, but the government knows that showing that opioid doctors face jail for their role, it should give disreputable doctors a moment of pause. Ultimately, this will have a small but important effect to help cut off the legal supply of opioids. For the more hardcore addict, it will force them to find other sources which often means getting their fix from street dealers. Those deep in their addiction will still find ways to source their substances and with States reducing their spending on drug rehab programs, it’s going to get wore before it gets better.
San Francisco – A Model of What Not To Do
San Francisco’s way of addressing the opioid epidemic has been to give out free syringes. While this is good for preventing disease, it does nothing to treat the disease of addiction. The city is now overrun by addicts using openly and the wealthy will soon demand action. The residents are growing tired of the crime, stemming from those who steal to fuel their addiction and the open drug use on public sidewalks. Surely San Francisco attempted to take a page out of Amsterdam’s way of addressing opiate use which was to setup a park where addicts could use freely. They also started dispensing free heroin. The approach is working to stop people from becoming addicts, but those who have been wrapped in their addiction for a long time -ten years or more – continue to wallow in their addiction, albeit at a lower rate than before. The problem in San Francisco is that they’ve allowed addicts to use anywhere – subways, on sidewalks, in front of government buildings – and the residents have had enough. There can only be one outcome – addicts will be given the boot from cities, forcing them back into the shadows.
It’s Time To Seek Treatment
The tide is turning and there’s less and less sympathy for addicts. At the current pace, within a decade, we could see a massive shift in public sentiment. Currently, addiction is treated as a disease. In the past, it was viewed as a weakness. If problems like those in San Francisco continue, the general public will be less tolerant. This could lead to a tidal shift away from developing services or support programs for those who would seek recovery.
The underyling message is clear – it’s time to seek treatment before options get more limited.
If you or someone you know needs help, call us.
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