In theory, prescription medication is legal. Once a doctor recommends that you use a specific substance to treat or control symptoms that you experience, you can legally use medications that you would otherwise not have access to under state law.
Although people tend to have a very permissive attitude about prescription medications, the truth is that the state controls access to them for a reason. In many cases, prescription medications can be dangerous when used improperly. Opioid painkillers can very quickly lead to chemical dependence or an overdose. Improper use of antibiotics might leave someone not only still struggling with an infection but now also coping with a strain of the bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics.
Having doctors oversee the use of prescription drugs helps ensure their safety and efficacy. Even if you have a prescription, police might arrest you for engaging in either of the two behaviors below.
Driving after taking your medication
There are a large number of medications, ranging from anti-seizure drugs to antidepressants, that can affect someone’s performance on the road. Any drug that makes you drowsy, affects your motor function or impacts your cognitive abilities is a medication that you should not take before driving.
If a police officer pulls you over and you admit to taking mind-altering substances, they may arrest you for an impaired driving offense even if you have a valid prescription for the medication.
Selling or purchasing prescription medication
Maybe you ran out of your pain pills and your doctor doesn’t want to write you a renewal. A coworker who just had surgery may offer to sell you their leftover pills. You might consider doing something similar if you don’t need your entire prescription.
Anyone who gets caught transferring their prescription medication to someone else or accepting prescribed medication from someone who is not a licensed medical professional might potentially face criminal charges if they get caught during the act of transferring the medication or while possessing it later.
It’s important to understand the limits on what you can do with a prescribed drug even if you have a recommendation from your doctor. Understanding the mistakes that might lead to drug charges can help you better comply with the law or plan an effective criminal defense strategy.