Is Giving a Friend Your Prescription a Crime?

Categories: Criminal Defense


*This article was updated in August 2021.*

Colorado Prescription Drug Abuse Lawyer

Today, many Colorado residents have prescription medications to treat conditions or illnesses, including high blood pressure, arthritis, depression, and more.

These medications are legal, and you must have a valid prescription. While you might have the right to carry them around, you may wonder if you have the right to share them with a friend or family member. For example, if you are prescribed Xanax for your anxiety and have a friend going through a difficult time, can you offer them Xanax to help ease the stress of their situation? You are a good friend, and you are not a drug dealer.

Instead, you are just sharing a medication without requesting money in return. So, have you committed a crime?

It Is Illegal to Share a Prescription in Vail/Eagle County, Colorado

It is illegal to share prescription medications of any kind in the state of Colorado – even with a friend or family member. Handing over a single pill is technically committing a crime. With the opioid abuse and addiction epidemic in the United States, more states create laws that address the sharing of prescription medications, mainly controlled substances, and pain medications.

You Could Be Found Guilty of Unlawful Distribution

If you were to hand a friend a pill from your prescription bottle, you have technically committed an unlawful distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance. By doing so, you could face a plethora of criminal charges, including:

  • A level 1 drug felony if you gave more than 225 grams of a controlled Schedule I or Schedule II substance to a friend or family member.
  • A level 2 drug felony if you have given more than 14 grams of a Schedule I or Schedule II substance or more than 7 grams of drugs that contain heroin, ketamine, or methamphetamines.
  • A level 3 drug felony if you have supplied fewer than 14 grams of a Schedule I or Schedule II substance or more than 4 grams of a Schedule III or Schedule IV substance.

In some cases, you may only face a level 1 drug misdemeanor, especially if the substance is a Schedule V medication you can purchase over the counter.

What Are the Schedules for Controlled Substances?

The federal government has strict schedules for controlled substances. The higher up on the controlled medications list, the more severe the penalty is for sharing or consuming that medication without a prescription. The government classifies these drugs based on their likelihood of abuse or death.

The substances include:

  • Schedule I – The highest tier contains drugs with no accepted medical value, such as heroin, LSD, peyote, and ecstasy.
  • Schedule II – These medications have medical applications but can lead to abuse and psychological or physical dependence, such as stimulants, methadone, morphine, opium, and Demerol.
  • Schedule III – Substances in this category are still highly addictive and include Suboxone, Tylenol with Codeine, and ketamine. Testosterone products are also included in this category.
  • Schedule IV – While not as addictive, these are controlled substances because they may lead to addiction without proper monitoring. These include medications like Xanax, Soma, clonazepam, Valium, and Ativan.
  • Schedule V – Most of these medications are purchased over the counter, but some may still require a prescription, such as Phenergan and cough medicines with codeine.

When That Friend Is Injured or Dies

If the friend or family member you give that medication to dies or is seriously injured, you may face enhanced penalties and be held accountable for that death. Even if you have not sold them, drugs given to a person means distributing them. Therefore, you can be found guilty of distribution without profit.

Sharing Is Not Caring When It Comes to Controlled Substances

While you might share your medication with good intentions, it is essential to know that it is not caring for someone; in fact, you may fuel addiction or help create one. There are numerous people today with pain medication prescriptions still in their homes that they do not need, but they may still share with family members when they are in pain. Taking medications, especially those highly addictive, without a physician’s consent puts a person at risk for dangerous drug interactions, allergic reactions, and potential overdose.

You Can Legally Possess Controlled Substances with a Prescription

It is legal to carry a controlled substance in Colorado if you have a valid prescription for that medication. The prescription is personal; therefore, it only authorizes you to carry and consume that medication. If you gave that same medication bottle to another person, they could be arrested because it is illegal to carry or use someone’s prescription medication.

What Is the Likelihood You Will be Charged?

You will not be arrested or charged with handing over a single pill to a family member or friend in most cases. However, that does not mean you cannot be arrested or that you are immune. It is best never to share prescription medication. If the person is injured or you are caught sharing a highly controlled substance, you increase the chances of being arrested and charged with distribution.

In most of these instances, the charge is a misdemeanor, and you may not serve any time in jail. However, that misdemeanor is a permanent scar on your criminal record and one you must deal with the rest of your life for sharing a single pill.

Bottom Line: Never Give Drugs to Someone You Know

While you might avoid prosecution in some cases, you must never give away your medications – prescription or not – to a friend or family member.

If you have a narcotic prescription, do not give it away when you no longer need it. Instead, dispose of it properly. It is not worth a jail sentence or criminal record of handing them away, and you do not want to risk the lives of others.

If you have been arrested for distributing a prescription of your own, speak with Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. immediately. Do not assume these charges are minor. You could face jail time, especially if the recipient is injured or dies.

Schedule a consultation now at 970-704-0888 or request a free case evaluation online.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.