It’s difficult to watch someone you care about struggle with physical or mental pain, especially if you believe you can help. If you have a prescription to a medication that you think might end their suffering, you may consider sharing your medicine with someone else.
While those intentions are good, there can be huge federal consequences for that decision.
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) divides substances into five schedules, which categorize drugs under federal law. Prescriptions can be a Schedule II, III, IV or V substance, as Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States.
The other schedules are defined as such:
- Schedule II substances have a high potential for abuse which could lead to dependence. Examples could include Demerol®, Adderall®, oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, methamphetamine, opium and hydrocodone
- Schedule III substances have a lower potential for abuse but may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. Examples may include products containing no more than 90 milligrams of codeine, ketamine and anabolic steroids
- Schedule IV substances have a low potential for abuse. Examples could include clonazepam, Valium® and Soma®
- Schedule V substances have a lower potential for abuse than those in Schedule IV. Examples may include Robitussin AC® and Phenergan with Codeine®
Prescription control and enforcement depends on the schedule it falls under:
- Schedule II substances cannot be dispensed without the written prescription of a medical professional unless it’s an emergency. These medicines cannot be refilled; a new prescription must be written if the patient needs more.
- Schedule III and IV substances cannot be dispensed without a written or oral prescription; they cannot be refilled more than six months after the prescription date or more than five times after the prescription date unless a practitioner renews the script.
- Schedule V substances cannot be distributed or dispensed for any non-medical purpose.
These limitations are put in place to make sure no one abuses prescriptions or becomes addicted. This has become a focal point for law enforcement as the opioid epidemic in the U.S. grows.
If you are caught sharing your prescription in a way that is illegal under the CSA, you may need to defend yourself against serious charges. It is better to find other ways to aid someone you care about to receive medical help.