Have you been accused of drug diversion? This can cost you your nursing license and, thus, your livelihood. You are going to need a defense lawyer to not only fight but also understand the charges against you.
The abuse of prescription medication is being taken more and more seriously, and nurses are more vulnerable to prescription drug abuse simply because they have access.
At Remington & Dixon, PLLC, a nursing license professional defense attorney in Charlotte, NC, can help you navigate the future when you are under investigation for drug diversion.
What is Drug Diversion?
Drug diversion, also called medication or prescription diversion, is any case in which prescription medication is used or sold without proper authorization.
For example, a physician might write a prescription without medical need to somebody who is “doctor shopping,” or a nurse might remove medication for their own use. Drug diversion is a crime regardless of whether you took the drugs to sell them or to use yourself.
Drug diversion may also involve stealing prescription pads and forging prescriptions or hacking into electronic medical records to do the same thing. There have also been instances of nurses taking medication prescribed to patients for themselves.
Such charges can also result from simple errors, such as a Pyxis machine malfunctioning.
Which Drugs Are Most Often Diverted?
The most common drugs that are diverted or stolen are opioids and narcotics due to their high potential for abuse and recreational use. Also commonly stolen are anabolic steroids, central nervous system depressants used to treat anxiety and insomnia, hallucinogens, and stimulants.
However, any drug may be diverted in some specific circumstances.
How Are Drug Diversion Complaints Investigated?
Typically, a prescription diversion investigation is started after somebody files a complaint. Hospitals typically conduct their own internal investigation about diverted drugs and then report to federal and state officials. They are expected to voluntarily contact law enforcement as soon as they suspect an incident and have a suspect identified.
At the federal level, the primary agencies are the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Diversion Control. Yes, drug diversion can lead to criminal charges.
In North Carolina, the investigating agency is the North Carolina Drug Control Unit (NC-DCU). This was set up in response to the opioid crisis and administers various regulations to reduce the abuse of controlled substances.
Potential Charges for Drug Diversion
Hospitals are required to report you, and they may not need the level of evidence required for criminal charges to fire you. They will also report you to the North Carolina licensing board.
Charges that can be filed include:
- Drug possession
- Drug trafficking
- Falsifying business records and other forms of fraud
- Endangerment of patients
- Unlawfully obtaining controlled substances
- Health care fraud
- Identity theft
Diverting drugs is in and of itself a crime. But as an example, possession of Schedule II drugs such as opioids is a Class I misdemeanor for amounts under 100 dosage units and a Class I felony for more significant amounts. The penalties are up to 120 days for the former and up to 24 months for the latter.
Nurses charged with drug diversion often face multiple charges that can add up to several years in prison.
Will You Lose Your License if Convicted?
Not necessarily. If you were diverting drugs to take them yourself, then the NC Board of Nursing may give you the option of a monitoring program. One of which is voluntary: the Alternative Program for Nurses in Recovery (AP). Signing up for this may help you avoid charges in the first place.
The other is a disciplinary program called the Discipline Program for Nurses in Recovery (DP). To incentivize nurses to sign up for the voluntary program, participation in AP is private, but if you are in DP, it will be posted publicly. However, the goal of the program is to help you recover from addiction and return to work.
Non-compliance may result in termination of participation and a license suspension of at least one year. You will also have to prove sobriety before reapplying.
However, for some drug diversion crimes, your license may be revoked. If you are diverting drugs in order to sell them, you face the probability of having your license revoked, as well as potential significant jail time. You can also lose your license if you falsify patient records or endanger patients. Using a false license to get around a period of suspension can also get your license revoked.
Because of this, you need a solid defense to ensure that you are not convicted. Be aware that none of this impacts the hospital terminating you or your ability to get another job.
Speak With a Charlotte Nursing License Defense Attorney
At Remington & Dixon, PLLC, we can help you defend yourself from these allegations of drug diversion and try to help you keep your license. We can handle the entirety of your case involving your professional license and your criminal charges. We will do our best to help you keep your ability to practice and your livelihood. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.