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What is a pill mill?

People use the term "pill mill" to describe doctors' offices that help people get medication they do not need. This is illegal, as the medications in question are prescription medications and are only supposed to be used by those with a valid medical requirement. It's illegal even for people with a valid prescription to sell or share these drugs. That's how tightly this control runs.

At these so-called pill mills, doctors will write out prescriptions that people do not need or sell them pills that they want, even when there is no reason. But this can raise some questions.

Is there justification?

To start with, consider the fact that many people frame pill mill doctors as those who write out these prescriptions "without medical justification." In some cases, this may be fairly clear. A person may come in without any pain-related symptoms and get a prescription for a heavy painkiller. These drugs can be habit-forming and often see illegal use. The doctor may get accused of essentially acting as a drug dealer, hiding behind their office to make things appear legal.

But what if the doctor thought that there was medical justification? Clearly, the point of anti-drug laws is not to punish medical professionals who simply tried to help their patients. Maybe they made a mistake, but that is far different than intentionally skirting the laws. That's an important distinction to make when charges arise.

What differences do authorities look for?

In recent years, the authorities have started to take these pill mill cases more seriously, and we have seen an uptick in arrests and prosecution. So, what do they look for when trying to determine if a doctor is running a pill mill or if he or she is a legitimate pain specialist? A few of the red flags include:

  • Only taking cash for their payments.
  • Seeing a high volume of patients.
  • Writing an abnormally high number of prescriptions.
  • Using limited medical exams.

For example, in one case, a single doctor's office wrote more painkiller prescriptions over a one-month period than all of the doctors working at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital. Officials quickly determined that some of those may not have been necessary.

That said, where do they draw the line? How many is too many? Could a doctor who finds a medication that works and tries to get it to as many patients as possible get accused of running a pill mill?

Your rights

As you can see, these cases often become complex and the authorities must answer a lot of important questions to move forward. If you find yourself facing serious charges, make sure you fully understand your rights and your defense options.

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