Prescription medications are a fact of life for many of us. Our prescription medications can cause legal and other problems for us or for our families if we are not careful.
Many medications that are prescribed are illegal to possess without a valid prescription. These medications are often referred to as controlled substances. Unfortunately, in my practice, I have had several clients who were arrested and charged with criminal possession for merely having their medications with them. Often, this situation can be avoided with a small amount of planning.
It’s important to know that not all prescription medications are controlled substances. However, you should treat all of your prescription medications with the same level of care, regardless of how they are classified.
Always keep your medications in a safe and secure location. Unless you need them when you’re not at home, it is probably best to keep them at home.
However, if you need to take your medications with you, always keep them in the prescription bottle provided to you by your pharmacist. I have had several clients who kept their medication in a tin or box that they kept in their car, purse, or other bag. Unfortunately, when they were stopped by police (usually for some other reason), the officer found the container with the medication in it, identified it as a controlled substance, and arrested the person for possession. Often in these cases, we are able to get evidence from the client’s doctor or pharmacist to help us get the charges dismissed. However, this comes after the client has been charged with a felony, kept in jail for some period of time, and had to retain an attorney. Needless to say, not an ideal situation. Usually, if these clients had simply kept the medication in the original bottle, the situation could have been avoided altogether.
Many pharmacies wil provide an extra bottle upon request. So, if you only need to take a couple of pills with you when you’re out and about, you can put these in the extra labelled bottle from the pharmacy. If the medication is prescribed to a child, often the pharmacy will automatically provide an extra bottle, especially if the medication needs to be taken while at school.
Sometimes we end up with more of a particular medication than we actually need. Perhaps, the medication was prescribed for some short term injury, or perhaps the doctor changed your dose before your ran out. It is never a good idea to keep the extra pills around, but what do you do with the extras? Most police stations have a “Red Med” box specifically for that purpose. Usually, you just walk in, drop your unwanted medications in the box, and then leave — no questions asked.
Do not flush unneeded medications down the toilet, and don’t put them in the garbage. Don’t keep them for later, “just in case”. And, certainly, don’t share them with another person. Even a well-intetioned gesture of giving a controlled substance to a friend or family member can result in a serious criminal charge.
Be especially careful with medications around children. Certain medications that are safe and effective for adults can be deadly if ingested by children. Some teenagers are under increasing pressure to experiment with prescription medications. Teens who take medication for conditions such as ADHD can be pressured to share or sell their medications to others who don’t need them. The best precaution is to avoid having medications sitting around that can be accidentally ingested or intentionally stolen.
Ultimately, it is important to exercise great care with your prescription medications, both for the protection of your family and for your own legal protection.
If you are charged with a controlled substance offense (or any other criminal offense), please call our office. Our legal team is prepared to help you in your defense. For more information, please visit our website.