Just because they're legal doesn't mean they can't get you in trouble. Prescription drug overdoses reached an all time high in 2014, when there were more deaths from prescription drugs than from cocaine and heroin combined. And prescription drugs can be just as addictive as illicit drugs, leading to similar instances of criminal behavior surrounding use, abuse, manufacture, and sale.
Here are five things you need to know about criminal law and prescription drugs:
It's not just overdoses the prescription drug users and parents should be worried about. Doctors have faced criminal penalties for over-prescribing pain medication -- either negligently or for profit -- and possession of a legal prescription drug without the proper prescription is still illegal.
If the prescription you have for pills isn't legit, you could be facing some serious jail time. While some states treat falsification of prescriptions as a misdemeanor, others classify it as a felony. For example, forgery is a Class E felony in Delaware, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Prescription drug possession laws also vary by state, and often mirror those for illegal drug possession. Specific penalties will generally depend on the amount of drugs involved and the person's criminal history, but normally begin as serious misdemeanors and only work their way up.
Yes, you can get a DUI or DWI if you're on prescription medication, even if you have a valid need for the drug and even if you have a valid prescription for it. Nearly all DUI statutes address the driver's level of impairment, and not whether the substance that impaired him or her was legal.
It is illegal to buy -- and possess -- prescription drugs without a prescription, regardless of where you purchase them from. So while Amazon may be a legitimate source for all kinds of other consumer goods, you may want to be wary of buying your drugs online.
Drug addiction, even to prescription drugs, is a serious matter, and if someone you know is addicted to prescription drugs, he or she should seek professional treatment. And if you've been charged with a crime involving prescription drug, you should contact an experienced drug crime attorney as soon as possible.