It is an unfortunate fact that not only Wisconsin, but the entire country, is facing an opioid crisis. When you hear the word "opioid", what do you think of? You probably think of heroin or, recently, fentanyl. But a lot of people don't realize that opioids actually include prescription pain pills that contain compounds such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, methadone and others. It's not uncommon for patients to store leftover pills in a medicine cabinet once they start to feel better. But rather than dispose of them properly, they keep the pills in their home. Unfortunately, keeping these drugs onhand opens them up to liabilities; there's a widespread epidemic of teens and others stealing leftover pills from family members and either using them or selling them to friends.
What are opioids?
Opioids are pain relief drugs that are either:
Although doctors won't prescribe you street heroin for your back pain, prescription opioids are made from the same chemical compounds because they are extremely effective at relieving moderate to severe pain. Many of these prescription drugs are dangerous because of their highly addictive nature and the fact that the users will feel a "high" similar to heroin, leading to increased chances of misuse; and much like heroin, overdoses are possible and common with prescription pain pills. Due to the "high" and addictive qualities of prescription drugs, it's not uncommon for patients to get hooked on them and eventually make the shift to street heroin -- it's cheaper and easier to get, after all.
Because of the similarities in terms of abuse and addiction between prescription drugs and heroin, law enforcement take prescription drug possession very seriously. Having prescription opioids but no prescription is a very serious offense and will result in severe punishment.
What are the penalties for prescription opioid possession in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, unlawful opioid possession isn't taken lightly. Drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), codeine, morphine (Kadian, Avinza), and fentanyl, to name a few, are considered Schedule II narcotics. First offenses are not taken into consideration -- right off the bat, it's considered a Class I felony with the potential for a prison sentence no longer than 3.5 years and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
As a bit of a side note, there are other well-known prescription painkillers that aren't classified as narcotics, but the possession of which still carry $500 fines and 30 days in jail. These include ketamine, anabolic steroids and clonazepam.
Can I get in trouble if my opioids were prescribed?
If you are prescribed opioids by your doctor, you are not liable to be charged with possession. However, if you sell or give away your pills to anybody, even if the recipient has/had a similar prescription, you are considered a drug dealer in the eyes of the law and can be prosecuted. Your prescription was given to you and only you by your doctor for your individualized care. It's optimized for your body and sharing pills with others has high potential for misuse, overdose and even fatality.
How do I get rid of my prescription after I'm done?
In the end, the point is: don't possess drugs if they weren't given to you officially by a doctor. Possession of narcotics is punished very severely in Wisconsin, so keep an eye on your prescriptions to ensure nobody steals them; and if you have any pills leftover from your treatment, dispose of them properly. You don't want anybody abusing them or ingesting them (intentionally or even unintentionally when it comes to little children). There are drug take-back programs, which are the safest and most "official" way of drug disposal. However, if there's not take-back organization available near you, you can also:
What do I do if I'm charged with possession of prescription drugs in Wisconsin?
Being charged with a felony does not mean you should lose all hope. Our attorneys can defend you against prescription drug charges. As with all charges brought against you, the sooner you are able to speak with an attorney the better chance you have of obtaining a favorable outcome. If you are looking to aggressively fight these types of accusations, please contact us today to arrange a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
If you feel that a loved one is abusing prescription drugs, please remember that there are resources that can help them get on the road to recovery. The current opioid crisis in this country is alarming and anyone can develop an addiction. If you are looking to speak with someone please reach out to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.