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Is It Illegal to Share or Give Away Prescription Drugs?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Is it a drug deal if there's no cash involved? Let's just say your friend has the same prescription medication as you, but just forgot her pills at home. Or your colleague is suffering from allergies, and your prescription-grade antihistamines can help. You're not trying to make money off the transaction -- you're just trying to help. Or someone is trying to help you.

Unfortunately, when it comes to prescription drugs, that might not matter. It turns out just giving away or sharing your prescription medication might get you into trouble.

The Prescription

Just because certain drugs are legal with a prescription, doesn't make them legal all the time -- that prescription is pretty important. The prescription allows the person named on the script, and only that person, to possess and consumer medication or drugs. And without a valid prescription, possession and consumption of those same drugs is illegal.

And there's a flip side to that equation as well. Just as a prescription can only allow one person to possess and consume certain drugs, only certain people can prescribe those drugs. And outside of that prescription system, distribution of prescription medication is illegal. Heck, even intending to distribute prescription drugs is illegal.

The Penalties

How much trouble you can get into for sharing or giving away prescription drugs will depend on how much of a drug your sharing or giving away, and who's prosecuting you. For instance, a conviction under federal controlled substances laws could land you in prison anywhere from 10 to 30 years. Meanwhile, you could be looking at a sentence from 1 year in jail up to five years in prison under California's drug laws, depending on exacerbating factors like whether you forged a prescription or were involved with others in a conspiracy to sell.

At the same time, many jurisdictions have set up specialized drug courts to deal with drug addiction and abuse, to avoid treating addiction with incarceration. These courts will attempt to steer nonviolent drug offenders towards addiction treatment programs rather than prison terms, and may have more freedom to craft penalties for prescription drug possession like setting up rehab programs, probation conditions, and monitoring systems to enforce sentences.

Whether these programs are available will depend on where you live and the specific charges you face. If you've experienced issues with prescription drug addiction, you can access professional help for free. If you've been charged with a prescription drug offense, you should consult with an experienced drug crime attorney as soon as possible.

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