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Health care professionals and drug crimes

Those who work in the medical profession experience high stress on nearly a daily basis. They also have access to highly addictive drugs like pain medication or benzodiazepines for panic and depressive disorders. Occasionally, these two factors mixed together can be a recipe for disaster both professionally and personally for those employed in the health care industry.

Fortunately, some medical facilities attempt to resolve issues of medication diversion by workers internally. This means encouragement to enroll in treatment programs and counseling -- sometimes in lieu of criminal action. Other times, the authorities come in, investigate and file charges. Obviously, this can be a crushing blow on top of an already difficult situation. In the interests of self-education, this is what the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh says defendants charged with stealing or diverting drugs for personal use might expect in the way of penalties if convicted.

If the alleged incident meets the requirements of medication misappropriation or diversion, the defendant could face criminal charges. Depending upon the severity of the incident, specific charges like theft-movable property or possession of illegally obtained prescription might be filed. These represent a class A misdemeanor and a class U misdemeanor, respectively, and could result in fines and additional penalties like jail time or mandatory treatment program enrollment.

The takeaway is that even well-trained and educated health professionals can fall victim to an arrest for drug crimes. When this happens, the best course of action is working under an attorney's guidance for acquittal or lenient punishment rather than working against the system. After all, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers understand the community-centered value in helping a healthcare worker overcome his or her difficulties due to a high stress work environment.

Source: University of Wisconsin | Oshkosh, "Preventing Medication Diversion" accessed Mar. 17, 2015

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