A visit to the dentist is typically met with some anxiety and fear. Having a metal instrument scraping your teeth is the least comfortable way to spend an afternoon. However, usually you can trust your dentist to be knowledgeable and experienced, and to carry out the unpleasant job with the utmost professionalism. Not so for Virginia Beach, VA patients seeking help from dentist Dr. Gary Hartman.
As reported in the Virginia Pilot, Hartman developed an unhealthy, codependent dynamic with some of his patients, writing them phony prescriptions for painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and the sedative Zolpidem. Patients then obtained the drugs and handed them over to Hartman. He then traded free dental work, and patients were given some of the drugs to keep for themselves. According to state documents, over the years Hartman prescribed an incredible 47,000 hydrocodone pills, along with more than 9,000 oxycodone pills. (Hartman’s license has since been suspended.)
Another Dentist in VA Falsely Prescribed Drugs
Oakton, VA dentist Hamada Markarita was sentenced based on evidence that he wrote prescriptions for drugs like fentanyl, Vicodin and Valium to his employees, patients and a girlfriend. According to prosecutors, there was no medical reason for dispensing the medicine, and it was also alleged that he gave patients medication at social events. Like Dr. Hartman, Markarita then had those he dispensed the medicine to return some or all of it to him. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Virginia, Markarita was sentenced to 25 months in prison, followed by a supervised release.
Virginia’s Drug Problem
Virginia’s drug problem is not isolated to dirty dentists. Data collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows Virginia had 1,130 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, at a rate of 13.5 deaths per 100,000 people, just a click above the 13.3 national rate. And, since 2010, the state has seen a tenfold increase of heroin-related overdose deaths, from 45 to 450. Statistics gathered in 2017 by the Virginia Department of Health reveal the top localities for fentanyl and/or heroin-related overdose deaths:
- Richmond City – tops the list with 91
- Henrico – 53
- Virginia Beach – 47
- Norfolk – 46
- Roanoke City – 32
Other Drug-Related VA News – Fentanyl
Like many other states, Virginia has also seen an uptick in fentanyl-related deaths. The issue is that the drug is cheap to manufacture, and continues to be cut with cocaine and heroin. Many who use these drugs never know they have been cut with fentanyl. Statistics reported by WTOP.com show that in 2013 of the 572 opioid overdose deaths, 185 were connected to fentanyl and/or heroin use. But three years later, in 2016, 810 out of the 1,133 deaths from opioid overdoses were tied to fentanyl and/or heroin.
Prosecuting Virginia Drug Dealers
Amidst the climbing overdose death rates, Virginia has taken measures to crack down on those responsible for distributing and selling these drugs. A new state law is in the works, which would allow prosecutors to charge drug dealers whose products kill someone with murder. Twenty other states have already enacted what are being termed “drug-induced homicide laws.”
As seen in a WHSV3.com article, HB 2528 states that the penalty for drug-induced homicide is “punishable by confinement of not less than five nor more than 40 years, if the underlying felonious act that resulted in the killing of another involved the manufacture, sale, gift, or distribution of a Schedule I or II controlled substance to another and (i) such other person’s death results from his use of the controlled substance and (ii) the controlled substance is the proximate cause of his death.”
This aspect of the law concerned many that it would deter people from calling 911 if a friend overdosed. People were worried that if they called in the emergency they would be charged with the death. However, lawmakers have amended the bill’s language to clarify this would not be the case. Also, the new law allows the prosecution of dealers for a death whether it happened in front of the dealer or not (the old law required that the overdose be in front of the dealer in order to prosecute).
In 2016, a 29-year-old man named Joseph Curry, living in Leesburg, VA was arrested and prosecuted for this exact issue. The Washington Post reported that two people in Loudon County died from fentanyl and heroin that Curry sold to them. Curry was sentenced to 21 years in prison, because the drugs he sold had dire consequences for the users.
Get the Addiction Help You Need at FHE
Are you struggling with an addiction to heroin or prescription painkillers? You don’t have to face the problem alone. FHE Health’s caring, compassionate counselors are available 24/7 to answer your questions. Call us at (833) 596-3502 or contact us today to discuss how we can help you overcome your addiction. We look forward to helping you on your path to recovery.