Pharmaceuticals and Other Drugs

What about drugs other than marijuana?

It is illegal to posses any controlled substance without a valid prescription; to sell, provide, give away, deliver, or distribute a controlled substance; to manufacture a controlled substance without legal authorization; and to possess chemicals used in the manufacture of a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture.

  • Depending on the substance, possession may result in a misdemeanor to a felony conviction with the penalties up to a fine of $2,500 and confinement up to 10 years.
  • Depending on the substance, distribution, or possession with the intent to distribute may result in a misdemeanor to felony conviction with penalties up to a fine of $500,000 and confinement up to 40 years.
  • Second or subsequent offenses may have stricter penalties.

Is it okay to possess or take a drug prescribed for someone else?

No. It is illegal possess, or to take another person’s prescription. It is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription or order of a practitioner while acting in the course of his professional practice.

Are prescription and over-the-counter drugs being abused?

Yes. Each year in the U.S., there are over 100,000 deaths from drug-involved overdoses – an alarming average of 290 deaths per day – from illegal drugs and prescription opioids. Rates of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse and overdoses rise every year. Most dramatically, the abuse of prescription (e.g., Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet) and synthetic (Fentanyl) opioids has exploded in the last decade. Synthetic opioids were responsible for 67 percent of overdose deaths in 2022.

More about Fentanyl

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It can be prescribed by a doctor for pain and is also made illegally. Fentanyl and other synthetic and counterfeit opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths.

Fentanyl in powder form is often combined with heroin or other substances, like cocaine, to increase potency or to add an opioid effect to an otherwise non-opioid drug. Fentanyl is also pressed into pill forms, alone or in combination with other substances. The pills can be made to look like other controlled substances, such as Oxycodone, Percocet, and Xanax, which often makes users think they are taking real prescription pills. The DEA reported that 60 percent of fake prescription pills tested in 2022 contained enough fentanyl to kill a person. This is especially dangerous because people are unaware that fentanyl has been added.

What if I am with someone who has a drug overdose? If I call for help, won’t I get in trouble?

Seek help immediately. Unfortunately, it is sometimes possible for someone to have a life-threatening physical reaction to drugs or alcohol: this is known as an overdose. It is critical that someone who is having this sort of reaction get immediate medical attention, as that person may die if left untreated. EMS and police personnel have access to drugs such as Narcan, which can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. However, Narcan is not always effective.

Someone who seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for themselves or for another individual because of a drug- or alcohol-related overdose in progress may be protected from being convicted for certain possession or intoxication crimes if the person reports an overdose to a firefighter, EMS personnel, or a law enforcement officer (most commonly by calling 911 for emergency medical response), or assists or provides care to the individual experiencing an overdose. To be eligible for this “affirmative defense,” the person reporting the overdose must identify themselves as being the one who reported the overdose.

So You’re 18 is presented by the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local and Specialty Bar Associations.
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