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Is it Illegal To Give Prescription Drugs to a Friend?

By Alex Sirek | Last updated on

Giving your friend one of your prescription painkillers or other prescription medications like Adderall or Ritalin might seem like a no-brainer. If your friend is in pain or really needs some, why wouldn't you try to help? Well, tragically, in this context being a good Samaritan could get you in a bit — or a lot — of trouble.

Sharing prescription medications of any kind violates state and federal laws, which can lead to a range of criminal consequences. This can include fines, community service, probation, and even time in prison. It can also lead to a host of punishments from your high school or college.

What if They ‘Really Need It’?

It is against the law to possess or consume a prescription medication that you have no prescription for. It does not matter if your friend is telling you that they are in a lot of pain, that they just came back from the dentist, or that they really need to focus while studying for finals.

To learn more, check out our comic on this topic!

Outside of the doctor-pharmacist prescription system, distributing, selling, or sharing any prescription drugs is illegal. While it is perfectly legal for you to take your medication, that same drug becomes an illegal controlled substance once you place it in the wrong hands (meaning anyone’s hands but yours).

So that means giving your prescription drugs to your friend could make you guilty of distributing (or even intending to distribute) prescription medications without proper documentation. This is highly illegal.

Adderall, oxycodone, Vicodin, and other stimulants and opioids are considered “schedule II” drugs by the federal government and most states. The criminal penalties for selling them are severe. Xanax and other drugs for treating anxiety and other mental health needs are “schedule iv” drugs.

It can also be incredibly dangerous to consume or distribute medications without a valid prescription. There are countless possibilities for serious complications that a doctor and pharmacist would know about that you may not.

Whether it be incorrect dosage, allergies, or side effects, taking a medication without the advice of a licensed medical practitioner can have deadly consequences. Do not play doctor when your friend tells you they are in pain or that they need a stimulant to get through studying. These drugs all have a high potential for abuse and addiction as well. In addition to drug trafficking, you could unintentionally contribute to your friend’s drug abuse problem.

What if We Use the Same Prescription?

Even if the medication is the same, unless you are a prescribing physician, in the eyes of the law you giving your friend a prescription medication is illegal and considered distribution.

It does not matter if your friend also has a prescription for Adderall or whatever else they are asking you for, it is still illegal if your name is on the label. "But I don't have mine with me" is not a valid excuse.

Can a Friend Pick Up My Prescription?

In most cases, it is okay to have someone else pick up a prescription on your behalf. There could be some specific protocol to follow, though this is all up to the pharmacist's judgment.

In most cases, the pharmacist will simply verify that the person picking up the prescription knows the patient by asking for some patient knowledge (i.e, the patient's address or birthday), or the pharmacist could ask to see an ID. For drugs used to treat pain or ADHD, a pharmacist is far less likely to hand your prescription over to a friend versus a parent or family member.

Accordingly, a friend picking up your prescription for their own use is highly illegal.

So think twice before lending a friend one of your prescription-strength Tylenol.

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