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Alabama's Opioid Epidemic, Alcohol and Marijuana Laws, and DUI Resources

This guide will cover the most prevalent addiction problem in Alabama - the opioid epidemic. We will cover statistics, what the state is doing to combat the problem, and resources for finding help. This guide will also cover Alabama alcohol laws, marijuana laws and medical marijuana laws, as well as information and resources for DUI charges.  If you are in immediate need of help for an addiction in Alabama, please visit our Alabama medical detox locator.

Opioid Epidemic

No state has been hit harder than Alabama by the deadly opioid addiction epidemic. This phenomenon, now considered a national health emergency, has been building since the 1990s and has grasped the lives of millions of people. Nearly every family has been affected in one or another by this health crisis. Whether it be friends or immediate family members, most people know somebody addicted to opioids, often unknowingly. Many times, overdose deaths take families by surprise, just like an accident or sudden illness, leaving them confused and traumatized. In fact, drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of preventable death and have quadrupled since 1999. From 2000 to 2015, more than a half a million people died as a result of an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many times, these deadly drugs come from the last drug dealer one would suspect: a doctor. In Alabama, this is particularly true, as there are more opioid prescriptions than there are state residents.

Alabama ranks first in the nation as the leading prescriber of opioid painkillers. To make matters worse, the most prescribed drugs are also the most powerful, like oxycodone (OxyContin), oxymorphone (Opana), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and even the extremely powerful synthetic opiate fentanyl. Fentanyl gained national attention as it became the leading cause of heroin overdose deaths. It is often used as a cheap way to “cut” heroin while simultaneously making it far more potent. Fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than morphine and 30-50 times stronger than heroin, which is no wonder why overdoses have spiked so sharply. In Jefferson County, deaths related to fentanyl doubled from 2015 to 2016. As of June 2017, there were over 300 overdoses in Madison County alone, with 37 deaths. One news report claimed that in Madison County there were 5 overdoses in a single night. This is very startling for Alabama, as 91 Americans are killed every day by opioid overdoses. Opioids have claimed more lives than the height of the AIDS epidemic and far more than the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s/1990s.

Alabama Combats The Opioid Epidemic

Due to the magnitude of the opioid addiction epidemic in Alabama, the state has formed a long overdue prescription drug monitoring program. The program aims to stop prescription drug diversion to the black market and to educate healthcare providers about the dangers and risks of opioid pain management. When the drug OxyContin was released to the market in the 1990s, it was marketed as a safe and non-habit forming painkiller. The manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, marketed it as a wonder drug. Misinformed doctors began to prescribe the drug for all kinds of pain. Whether it be an acute breakthrough pain, chronic pain, or moderate pain, the drug was perceived as a safe way to immediately cure pain. Rather than starting with physical therapy or non-narcotic medication, many doctors were reaching straight for opioids due to their apparent effectiveness. The drugs undeniably are extremely effective at killing pain, but the drug makers were not telling even close to the truth when it came to the risk of abuse. Now, these drug makers are receiving dozens of lawsuits claiming deceptive marketing tactics and the manipulation of health providers. Several Alabama hospitals are suing Purdue Pharma as a result of the opioid epidemic.

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

The Alabama Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, known as PDMP, was developed to promote the public health and welfare by detecting diversion, abuse, and misuse of prescription medications. It has several goals for tackling the opioid epidemic -

"PDMP is detecting diversion, abuse, and misuse of prescription medications."

1. To provide a source of information for practitioners and pharmacists regarding the controlled substance usage of a patient.
2. To reduce prescription drug abuse by providers and patients.
3. To reduce time and effort to explore leads and assess the merits of possible drug diversion cases.
4. To educate physicians, pharmacists, policy makers, law enforcement, and the public regarding the diversion, abuse, and misuse of controlled substances.

The program mimics programs currently in place in other states, which includes a prescription database. This database is designed to prevent people from “doctor shopping,” which is the act of going to as many doctors as possible to obtain as many prescriptions as possible. In the past, this was an extremely popular way to divert drugs to the black market or to just feed one’s own addiction.

"The program is designed to prevent people from 'doctor shopping' or using 'pill mills'"

The program also monitors pharmacies to prevent “pill mills,” which are pharmacies that sell prescription drugs directly to the public without a prescription. Pill mills were the most common way of diverting prescriptions into the black market. With the the new Alabama PDMP, the government can see exactly where every single pill is going. This also prevents doctors from overprescribing. With this new program, doctors are forced to try other pain management therapies before prescribing opioids.

Alabama Opioid Resources

These related links listed are from Alabama Public Health. They include resources for the public, useful links, information about drug monitoring in Alabama, the dangers of opioids, and what the state is doing to combat the health crisis. There is also a link to a letter from the Governor and a link to his executive order establishing the Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council. The Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, announced that, “We must find ways to curtail this crisis in Alabama. I look forward to reviewing the council’s recommendations for strategies to reduce the number of deaths and other effects caused by opioid misuse in our state.”

Types of Medical Detox in Alabama

Find Medical Detox by City

Here are just a few of the most popular cities to find medical detox in Alabama. Regardless of what drug you are detoxing from, many of these centers can help. Some centers do only focus on certain substances, so it is important to call them first before setting up an appointment or start date. If you call our toll-free helpline, we can streamline this process and find a center that meets your needs, is in a convenient location, and is covered by your insurance. If your city is not listed here, feel free to use our zip code search found on the homepage.

Alabama Alcohol Laws

Alabama, like much of the US, has a drinking age of 21. This means that persons under the age of 21 cannot purchase, consume, or possess alcoholic beverages, regardless of parental supervision. All residents of Alabama are required to hold a valid identification card or passport on their person if they plan on consuming or possessing alcohol.

"Much of Alabama prohibits or restricts the sale of alcohol on Sundays."

Like much of the South, Alabama does have blue laws. Blue laws are certain alcohol sale restrictions, mostly relating to Sunday. Much of Alabama prohibits or restricts the sale of alcohol on Sundays. This varies by jurisdiction. Some counties and cities may only restrict Sunday liquor sales, while some may allow alcohol sales during certain hours on Sunday. If you are visiting Alabama, ask a local store that sells alcohol or a hotel about their local alcohol laws.

Some jurisdictions in Alabama are completely dry. This means alcohol is prohibited every day of the week and it may even be unlawful to consume alcohol in these counties. This why it is so important to ask a local business or law enforcement officer the laws before consuming alcohol. It is also illegal to bring alcohol from out of state. If you plan on drinking in Alabama, you must purchase the alcohol in Alabama.

"Some jurisdictions in Alabama are completely dry."

Like most jurisdictions, the legal BAC limit is 0.08%. A BAC of .08 or higher can result in a DUI/DWI if operating any type of vehicle (sometimes even bicycles) or could result in a “drunk in public” charge.

These are all of the Alabama DUI laws in detail:

Alabama Marijuana Laws

Marijuana, or “Marihuana” as it is written in Alabama state law, is illegal in all forms. It is very important to know the law in Alabama regarding marijuana because the state has very strict laws. It is possible to catch a felony charge, jail time, and/or very large fines in Alabama for possessing marijuana. Marijuana punishments in Alabama are as follows:

  • 1st possession charge “personal use” is a Class A Misdemeanor and can carry no more than a 1 year in jail and a $6,000 fine.
  • 2nd possession charge or “other than personal use” is a Class C Felony. Personal use is discretion and not a set amount like many states. A Class C Felony in Alabama can result in 1-10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
  • Selling, delivering, or distributing marijuana in any capacity is a Class B Felony and can result in 2-10 years in prison and up to a $30,000 fine.
  • If you are over the age of 18 and sell marijuana to a person under the age of 18, this is a Class A Felony, which can carry a minimum sentence of 10-99 years in prison and up to a $60,000 fine. Selling marijuana within 3 miles of a school or university can result in a 5-year prison sentence.

For cultivating or trafficking marijuana in Alabama there are harsh mandatory sentences based on the amount of marijuana. They are:

  • For 1 kilo to 100 lbs. the minimum is 3 years and there’s a mandatory $25,000 fine
  • For 100-500 lbs. the minimum is 5 years and a $50,000 fine
  • For 500-1000 lbs. the minimum is 15 years and a $200,000 fine
  • For over 1000 lbs. the penalty is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole

Alabama also has a law called the “Alabama Drug Trafficking Enterprise Act,” which is aimed at locking up gang leaders or “drug kingpins.” This law also carries mandatory sentences for any person managing 5 or more people in a “drug trafficking or cultivating enterprise.” For a first conviction, the mandatory minimum is 25 years in prison with a fine between $50,000 and $500,000. For a second conviction, the leader is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole and a $150,000 to $1,000,000 fine.

Alabama does not allow medical marijuana but it does allow medical CBD oil with a prescription. CBD oils are marijuana derivative extracts that do not contain THC, the chemical that produces a “high.”