When people hear the term “drug possession,” they likely think of marijuana, heroin or cocaine. Rarely do prescription drugs come into mind when thinking about criminal offenses. But prescription drug crimes are common, and they come with harsh penalties.

Improperly possessing, distributing or using prescription drugs can land someone behind bars. Here is a look at some of the most common “legal drug” crimes.

Possession

The person to whom a health care provider prescribes the drugs is the only individual with permission to handle them. Just because these drugs are legally manufactured and prescribed to someone does not release anyone else from criminal liability. Anyone who obtains prescription medications without authorization may face charges for drug possession.

Distribution

Prescription drugs should only be distributed in accordance with strict laws and regulations. Doctors and pharmacists must be extra careful when handling the prescribing and dispensing processes. Patients must be mindful of keeping their medications secure and away from anyone else. Distributing prescription drugs may land a perpetrator with drug trafficking charges.

Driving under the influence

A DUI charge is not only for people who drive while under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances. Legal drug use can also result in DUI charges. Many prescription drugs have impairing effects on motor skills, concentration, judgment, alertness and coordination. Here are some common side effects of prescription medications:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slow movement
  • Blurry vision
  • Inability to pay attention

Any of these symptoms can cause someone to drive dangerously. This is true even for a person who lawfully owns and takes prescription drugs. Of course, different medications affect patients in varying ways. But if a police officer believes that a prescription drug is resulting in impaired driving, there may be criminal consequences.

Prescription drug offenses are just as serious as illegal drug crimes. Proper usage, storage and disposal are necessary to prevent any misuse of these medications.