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Why you could go to jail for sharing prescription drugs

Many people have shared prescription drugs with a family member, friend or colleague. Someone's in pain. You've got something that will ease that pain. Why not? It's not like you're a drug dealer. You're not making money off the drugs. You're just trying to help someone out.

The problem is that you don't know what kind of effect the drug will have on that person. It could interact badly with other medication he or she is taking. What if your friend or loved one has his or her own prescription for the medication and just ran out or left the pills at home? You don't know how many the person may have already consumed. In short, you can't know that by sharing your prescription drugs, you aren't endangering someone.

Beyond that, you could find yourself in legal jeopardy. Distributing prescription medication outside of the prescription system is against the law.

Prescription drugs can only be legally dispensed with a valid prescription written by someone with the authority to do so -- usually a physician. The medication is only to be taken by the patient named on the prescription.

As lawmakers in Tennessee and other states struggle with how to curb the opioid crisis, even authorized prescribers are encountering limits on how much of certain controlled substances they can prescribe. This year, our state passed what the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) termed "one of the most comprehensive and restrictive laws of any state."

What kind of criminal penalties you could face for sharing your prescription drugs depends in part on what kind of drugs they are. People who give away controlled substances could face as much as 30 years behind bars under federal law. Those who obtain prescription drugs by fraudulent means, such as forging or stealing a prescription, could face additional state or federal charges.

If you are facing criminal charges because you shared prescription drugs with someone not authorized to have them -- particularly if that person was injured or died as a result -- it's essential that you seek experienced legal guidance. Prosecutors and state and federal courts don't take drug charges lightly. Neither should you.

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