As illegal use of painkillers and other prescription drugs hits crisis level in the United States, Pennsylvania presents a sobering picture of the problem. It’s estimated that abuse of morphine, OxyContin and Vicodin affects one in four families in the state, with addiction cutting across all ages and economic levels.
State officials are concentrating their efforts on ways to counteract this devastating issue. Last February State Representative Ryan A. Bizzarro reintroduced H.B. 511, a bill that would enact more serious punishment for individuals who steal prescription medication from older adults.
Originally designated as H.B. 2006, the bill was first introduced during the prior legislative session. It calls for an amendment to current state law adding offenses for “taking or extorting, disposing of, or deceiving to acquire” medications prescribed for adults over 60 years old.
These offenses would also have minimum mandatory sentencing attached. Individuals found guilty of theft by taking or disposition would receive one year in jail, while those using deception or extortion would receive six months.
One in five state residents is 60 years of age or older, making this senior population a vulnerable target for unscrupulous addicts. Bizzarro is hopeful that the legislation will address the serious issue of elder abuse as well as the problem of prescription drug abuse.
In speaking about the proposed bill, Bizzarro also cited a report on the prescription drug epidemic issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It stated that more than three out of four individuals abusing painkillers are using drugs prescribed for someone else.
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