DENISE LAVOIE and SARAH RANKIN
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 in two years.
Patients from five states drove hundreds of miles to see him, spending up to 16 hours on the road to get prescriptions for oxycodone and other powerful painkillers.
"He's done great damage and contributed ... to the overall problem in the heartland of the opioid crisis," said Christopher Dziedzic, a supervisory special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration who oversaw the investigation into Smithers.
In the past two decades, opioids have killed about 400,000 Americans, ripped families apart and l