Your doctor prescribed you a medication that was necessary given your symptoms at the time. You (or your insurance) paid for the consultation with the doctor, as well as for the prescription medication that you picked up from the pharmacy. You may think that the pills you received are yours to do with as you see fit, but that simply isn’t the case.

Many prescribed medications are controlled substances under both Pennsylvania state and federal laws. That means that the only legal way to possess and use those drugs is exactly as ordered by your doctor. Using prescription medication contrary to your doctor’s orders or choosing to give or sell your medication to someone else could result in serious criminal charges.

Understanding controlled substances regulations

Drugs end up classified as controlled substances when research indicates there is a potential for abuse or dependence on the drug. The placement on the controlled substance schedule also reflects whether or not there are medically accepted uses for the drug. Many medications commonly prescribed fall on the controlled substances schedule. These include narcotic pain killers, psychiatric medication, cough medications, stimulants and depressants.

Many of these drugs have a thriving, unregulated secondary market. People ranging from addicts to college students may pay well over the standard cost of medications in order to obtain a few pills for personal use. In order to deter people from seeking illegal sources of prescribed medications and in the hope of reducing addiction and the overdose crisis, lawmakers created steep penalties for those accused of illegal diversion of prescribed medications.

Pennsylvania takes diversion of medication seriously

Even if you just gave away your extra medication to a friend with migraines, you could end up facing serious criminal charges. Those charged with delivery or intent in Pennsylvania could face jail time and more. Many narcotic pain relievers are Schedule II controlled substances, subject to harsh sentencing guidelines under Pennsylvania law.

Those accused of delivering or intending to delivery between two and ten grams of narcotics could face up to two years in prison and a fine of $5,000 for a first offense. Any subsequent offenses carry a penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. For those whose accusations involve a total weight of between 10 and 100 grams, the penalties are even higher. A first offense could result in three years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while any subsequent offenses could carry five years in prison and a fine of $30,000.

Those facing criminal charges related to prescribed medications need to take even first-time charges seriously. Failing to do so could result in jail time and a criminal record for life.