Customer of Former Casper Doctor Recounts Addiction, Huge Opioid Prescriptions
Paul Beland weighed 210 pounds and was fit before his addiction to oxycodone and other drugs prescribed by former Casper Dr. Shakeel Kahn, he told the jury in federal court on Monday.
By the fall of 2016, Beland's weight had dropped to 180 pounds and he used makeup to cover the needle tracks on his arms and legs from intravenous drug use, he said during the seventh day of the multi-state drug conspiracy trial against Kahn and his brother Nabeel Khan.
"I was pretty much out of my mind," Beland said.
So out of his mind and so addicted that sometimes he'd get his prescription filled for oxycodone at a local pharmacy and immediately go in a stall in a restroom to crush and snort a bunch of 30 mg pills, he said.
But for an addict, Kahn was a great source, Beland said later. "I knew I'd found a pill mill."
Beland, a former Wyoming resident who moved to Massachusetts, was the first of the defendants to be named publicly in a criminal complaint in early November 2016 in the federal case that led to the arrests of Shakeel and Lyn Kahn on Nov. 30, 2016.
The federal government charged Shakeel Kahn with prescribing controlled substances outside the standard of care resulting in death, operating a continuing criminal enterprise, having a firearm during a drug crime, money laundering, and using a telephone for a criminal purpose.
If convicted on all counts, Shakeel Kahn faces 45 years to life imprisonment.
If Nabeel Kahn [sometimes spelled Khan] is convicted of the charges against him, he faces a minimum of 27 years to life imprisonment.
Beland pleaded guilty in March 2018 to conspiracy to dispense and distribute oxycodone, the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam [Xanax], hydromorphone [Dilaudid], and the muscle relaxant carisoprodol [Soma]; and to two counts of unlawful use of a communication facility. In exchange for his plea, the government will dismiss other counts at his sentencing probably this summer.
During her questioning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Sprecher showed copies of prescriptions Kahn wrote to Beland and how Beland paid for them.
Beland said he had a legitimate pain issue, but after his initial examination, follow-up exams were cursory at best. Kahn initially charged $500 in cash for a visit, and then would write prescriptions. The doctor's basic fee went up depending on the amount and frequency of the customers' requests for prescriptions.
The prescriptions started for small amounts and doses, but increased to doses of 300 30mg pills and like amounts of 20mg pills, said Beland, who would with another customer would fly from Massachusetts to Casper monthly for the prescriptions.
Kahn asked Beland to recruit patients for a fee, which often wasn't paid. Those new patients would start with 120 30mg and 120 20mg prescriptions and eventually rise to 300 pills of each dosage, Beland said.
To afford Kahn's request for the $500 or more for the prescriptions, Beland said he often would sell pills.
Beland also asked for methadone if he ran out of pills and went into withdrawal, he said.
At one point, Kahn asked him how much he got on the street for selling the pills, and Beland said the doctor allegedly told him that he wanted a cut of the profits.
Beland told Sprecher that, despite the toll the addiction took on his body, it did not affect his memory. "I'm lucky I'm alive."
During the cross examination, Kahn's attorney Beau Brindley attacked Beland for being a habitual liar.
Brindley showed copies of the documents Beland had to sign to obtain the prescriptions with questions about prior drug use and addiction, swearing that he would use the medicines as prescribed and that they would be used only for pain control.
Despite a history of substance abuse including heroin use, Beland answered in the negative.
"When a doctor is lied to, it might affect what he does," Brindley said.
The day after Beland received his first prescription, he began abusing the oxycodone, but never called Kahn to say he was falling back into addiction, Brindley said.
He lied repeatedly on the forms he filled out for Kahn and he lied to his previous doctor, Brindley said.
Beland retorted that addicts lie and that Brindley was picking on him as an addict.
He also disputed that Kahn was a legitimate doctor. "I chose to buy drugs from a drug dealer," and that he chose to lie "110%."
Brindley concluded that Kahn was not at fault for Beland's addiction. "It's difficult to treat someone who lies repeatedly."
The trial resumes at the U.S. District Courthouse, 111 S. Wolcott St., at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.