According to the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional fatal drug overdoses nearly doubled from 1999 to 2004 and were the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States in 2004, behind only automobile crashes. Deaths from accidental overdoses increased to 19,838 in 2004, from 11,155 in 1999.
OxyContin, as well as their generic cousins oxycodone and hydrocodone, are from the same family of drugs as heroin. Some refer to these drugs as "hillbilly heroin." Used correctly, they ease the pain of people recovering from surgery or coping with terrible back pain. They can become powerfully addictive drugs that users need more and more of to get high. Before long, many users live for their next pill and will do anything to get it — just like heroin addicts. And if painkiller abusers are also drinking alcohol or taking allergy medications, they can wind up shutting down their lungs. Some states have criminally charged the manufacturers of these drugs for misrepresenting the damage that they can cause. There are also civil lawsuits pending regarding addiction and abuse against the manufacturers.
Do people get charged in Iowa in these types of cases? Absolutely. One needs to look no farther than last month in Plymouth County. Nicholas Clay, a 20 year-old man from Akron, died of an overdose. The State has charged 18 year-old Justin Bringman and 39 year-old Stuart Barton for their involvement in his death. Both are facing very long prison sentences.
Even if someone does not overdose or suffer any harm, it is a felony in Iowa merely to give someone a prescription medication, even if just one pill. Simple possession of a prescription medication without a prescription is a misdemeanor. It goes without saying that these cases have far reaching ramifications, beyond the prison sentences and fines.
Michael Jackson's friends and family are rushing around telling everyone who will listen that he was in great shape and otherwise healthy. An argument could be made that Michael was a co-conspirator in his own death, but that's for the lawyers to decide. We need much more information than what's provided through the media. Only time will tell if the Doc is criminally or civily liable.