Doctor facing life in prison for thousands of opioid doses

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — By the time drug enforcement agents swooped into his small medical office in Martinsville, Virginia, in 2017, Dr. Joel Smithers had prescribed about a half a million doses of highly addictive opioids.

Authorities say his case is the story of one doctor who contributed to the opioid abuse epidemic in five states: West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

Many of Smithers’ patients drove hundreds of miles to see him, spending up to 16 hours on the road so they could get prescriptions for powerful painkillers.

The 36-year-old father of five is facing the possibility of life in prison after being convicted in May of more than 800 counts of illegally prescribing drugs, including oxycodone and oxymorphone that caused the death of a West Virginia woman. When he is sentenced Wednesday, the best Smithers can hope for is a mandatory minimum of 20 years.

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