The Opioid Man Virginia doctor is sentenced to forty years in prison
Every day more than 130 people die from overdosing on opioids. The opioid crisis is a major problem in the United States and one man that has greatly contributed to the epidemic is Joel Smithers. He was sentenced to forty years in prison for illegally prescribing over 500,000 doses of opioids.
Smithers, a 36 year old father and husband, ran a medical practice in Virginia and had patients from Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. Many patients came to Smithers because other doctors refused to give them the pills. These patients are dependent on opioids for pain relief or have an addiction to drugs. He prescribed thousands of doses of oxycodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl, oxymorphone, and other opioids. Authorities said that Smithers’ clinic was more a facility to distribute drugs than it was a medical practice. Supposedly, he made $700,000 from the drugs he sold prior to March 2017 when federal agents discovered what was happening.
Smithers was convicted in May 2019 of over 800 counts of distributing illegal opioids. Smithers distributed drugs without a legitimate medical reason. Because other clinics would not prescribe opioids to people, Smithers could make a lot of money off selling illegal opioids to his patients. The drugs that he prescribed caused the death of one woman.
As well as serving forty years behind bars, he is being fined $86,000 and will have three years of supervision after serving his prison term.
Thomas Cullen, a U.S attorney, reported to NBC News, “This physician perpetuated, on a massive scale, the vicious cycle of addiction and despair.”
Smithers clinic is in the heart of where the opioid crisis is the worst. West Virginia has the highest rate of deaths caused by overdosing at 57.8 in every 100,000 people. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and New Hampshire are other states with a high percentage of deaths caused by opioids. Many argue West Virginia and its neighboring states have the highest rates of overdosing due to social and cultural factors, faltering economies, poor education, and accessibility of illegal drugs.
There are thousands of people who are addicted to opioids and the number has increased steadily over the past 20 years. The number of deaths from overdosing increased by 53,388 between 1999 and 2017 in the US. The Martinsville Virginia police chief, Eddy Cassady reported to the New York Times, “I just hope that this sentence will set an example of what happens to doctors who abuse their authority in prescribing medications for profits.” Cassady added, “Their actions have contributed to the opioid crisis faced by our country.”