Sharing Prescription Drugs – What Does the Law Say?

Sharing Prescription Drugs – What Does the Law Say?

sharing prescription drugs

Sharing prescription drugs with friends or family members sounds like a cost-effective solution to medical problems. A friend might be on the same medication and simply ran out of their prescription. A family member might be experiencing the same illness and you want to help.

Sounds fine, however both federal and state law says that sharing prescription drugs is not allowed. In fact, the consequences can be quite severe.

Laws on Sharing Prescription Drugs

There are several laws and statutes dealing with sharing prescription drugs. Federal law prohibits anyone from using or possessing someone else’s prescription drugs. People are also not allowed to distribute prescription drugs without a medical license.

The main reason for prohibiting the sharing of prescription drugs is to prevent health risks. Patients who take prescription drugs without consulting a doctor first might experience allergic reactions and adverse side effects. Using antibiotics incorrectly, for example, can make the infection harder to treat.

In Title 21 of the US Code, controlled substances (prescription drugs) cannot be dispensed without a written prescription from a practitioner. The only exceptions to this rule are if the substance is dispensed directly by a practitioner (prescription drug samples), and in emergency situations.

The laws are also intended to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs, especially opioids used in chronic pain management.

In the 2017 Florida Statutes Section 893.13(6), actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance is prohibited, unless the drug was lawfully obtained from a practitioner or with a prescription.

The Florida Statutes also list controlled substances into five different categories:


  •         Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. Examples include heroin and LSD.
  •         Schedule II drugs also have high potential for abuse, but have restricted medical use. Examples include hydrocodone and Adderall.
  •         Schedule III drugs have less potential for abuse with accepted medical use. Examples include Tylenol with codeine and anabolic steroids.
  •         Schedule IV drugs have lower potential for abuse with accepted medical use. Examples include alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).
  •         Schedule V drugs have relatively low potential for abuse with accepted medical use. Examples include Phenergan with codeine and ezogabine.

Having someone keep the controlled substance on behalf of someone else who has a prescription is another matter. This is allowed. It’s called the “Prescription Defense”  and permits authorized persons to possess (not use) a prescription drug for someone else’s benefit. This was taken to court in 2010 in in McCoy v State and the legal precedent was set that the keeper of the prescription simply needs to be authorized by the prescription holder.

For example, a wife can hold some of her husband’s prescription drugs for a specific purpose. While this is justifiable in court, there are still some law enforcement officers who do not know this.

Consequences of Sharing Prescription Drugs

The violation of the Florida Statutes provision is treated as a third degree felony. People sharing prescription drugs may be subject to penalties and fines. Penalties can go up to five years in prison, and fines can reach into the thousands of dollars. Depending on the case, you may also be held legally responsible for any adverse effects suffered by the person who shared your prescription.

To prevent the steep consequences in your case, it is vital that you build a strong defense as soon as possible. Contact Michael Gottlieb today for Broward’s premier criminal defense attorney.

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