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California Health And Safety Code 11156 HS – Prescribing Controlled Substances To An Addict


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerUnder Health & Safety Code 11156 HS, it is illegal for doctors and healthcare professionals to prescribe, dispense, or administer controlled substances to individuals known to be drug addicts. Violating this law can result in misdemeanor or felony charges, with a potential punishment of up to 3 years in county jail.

This legislation reflects the recognition of the ongoing crisis of prescription drug addiction, where individuals struggling with addiction often seek prescriptions from medical professionals. By implementing laws like this, lawmakers aim to combat fraudulent prescriptions and address the challenges posed by prescription drug misuse and addiction.

HS 11156. (a) Except as provided in Section 2241 of the Business and Professions Code, no person shall prescribe for, or administer, or dispense a controlled substance to, an addict, or to any person representing himself or herself as such, except as permitted by this division.

(b) (1) For purposes of this section, “addict” means a person whose actions are characterized by craving in combination with one or more of the following:

(A) Impaired control over drug use.

(B) Compulsive use.

(C) Continued use despite harm.

(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), a person whose drug-seeking behavior is primarily due to the inadequate control of pain is not an addict within the meaning of this section.



To establish a violation of California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HSC, the prosecutor needs to prove two elements:

  • The defendant, who is a medical practitioner, prescribed, administered, or dispensed a controlled substance to an individual, and
  • The individual was either an addict or represented themselves as one.

An “addict” is someone who displays behaviors indicating a strong desire for controlled substances, including a lack of control over drug use, compulsive drug use, and continued drug use despite evident harm.

However, individuals seeking drugs primarily to manage pain and lacking adequate control are not considered addicts.

Furthermore, it is not limited to physicians, healthcare professionals, or nurses who can be charged under this code – any individual who prescribes controlled substances to an addict may face a violation.


Example 1: A man visits a new doctor seeking relief from chronic pain and requests a prescription for Vicodin. He reveals that his regular doctor has refused to prescribe any more Vicodin as he suspects the man to be addicted to the medication. Despite being aware of the man’s opiate addiction, the new doctor agrees to prescribe Vicodin. This action could potentially lead to the doctor being charged with violating California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HSC, which prohibits prescribing controlled substances to individuals known to be addicts.

Example 2: In another scenario, a doctor has a consultation with a new patient who complains of severe back pain. Upon examination, the doctor notices obvious signs of a prior injury, strengthening the patient’s claim. Relying on the patient’s reported medical history, the doctor prescribes controlled substances to alleviate the pain. However, unbeknownst to the doctor, the patient actually has a serious addiction to painkillers. In this case, the doctor would not be criminally liable under California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 HSC as there was no knowledge or intent to prescribe a controlled substance to an addict.


A violation of California Health & Safety Code Section 11156 can be classified as a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties for a misdemeanor may include summary probation, up to one year in county jail instead of state prison, and a fine of up to $20,000.


On the other hand, a felony crime conviction may result in formal probation lasting up to three years, imprisonment for an extended period, and/or a fine of up to $20,000. 

In addition to these penalties, medical professionals and healthcare workers convicted under this law are likely to face professional consequences, such as the suspension of their medical license.


If someone in California is accused of a crime under California Health & Safety Code Section 11156, they have the right to present a legal defense. Three common defenses include:

  • Mistake of Fact: A defendant can argue that there was a genuine mistake of fact. This defense asserts that the defendant had a reasonable belief that they were not prescribing a controlled substance to an addict.
  • Lack of Proof of Addiction: To be guilty under this law, the defendant must have prescribed a controlled substance to a person with a drug addiction. “Addict” has a specific legal definition in this context, and a valid defense is for the defendant to argue that they did not prescribe a substance to a person who meets the legal definition of an “addict.”
  • Entrapment: Entrapment can be used as a defense when a defendant is charged with drug crimes after being targeted in an undercover operation. The defense argues that law enforcement engaged in overbearing conduct that coerced the defendant into committing a crime. This defense is valid if the accused can show that they only committed the offense due to the undercover officer’s conduct or entrapment.


The immigration consequences of a conviction under Health & Safety Code § 11156 HS can vary depending on a number of factors, including the specific facts of the case, the individual’s immigration status, and the current state of immigration law. In general, however, a conviction under this code section could lead to deportation or inadmissibility to the United States. If you have been convicted of this offense, it is important to consult with an immigration attorney to discuss your specific situation and the potential consequences. If you do not have or know of an immigration lawyer, the Tabibnia Law Firm can refer you to one.




Prescribing controlled substances to an addict is a serious criminal offense with potentially severe penalties. If you or someone you know is facing charges for this offense, seek immediate assistance from a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney. Cyrus Tabibnia, a drug crime attorney in Los Angeles with over 19 years of experience, specializes in handling cases like these with sensitivity and dedication. Mr. Tabibnia is committed to protecting his clients’ professional careers and providing them with the strongest legal representation possible.

To learn more about the implications of prescribing controlled substances to an addict and to schedule a free consultation, please reach out to Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Cyrus Tabibnia at 866-713-2159.

Tabibnia Law Firm is serving its clients throughout Southern California including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Orange County, Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, Ventura county, Riverside County, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, Palmdale, Santa Clarita, Monterey Park, La Puente, Van Nuys, Pomona, Manhattan Beach, West Covina, Whittier, Downey, Woodland Hills, Norwalk, Torrance, Redondo Beach, San Bernardino, Walnut Creek, Inglewood, Lancaster, Westlake Village and nearby areas.


Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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