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ETpro's avatar

Is it legal to use legitimately prescribed pain meds for fun? (See details)

Asked by ETpro (34550points) February 18th, 2011

Now I know that while Rush Limbaugh originally got prescriptions to Oxycontin quite legitimately for severe back pain, he clearly stepped over a legal line when he started doctor shopping in order to get an ever increasing supply. But excluding behavior like that, is a person breaking any laws if they have a legitimate prescription to one of the opiate or synthetic opiate painkillers and, let’s say that it’s for some sort of recurrent pain, but the pain doesn’t flare up for months. The prescription is about to go stale dated. They can get a refill if needed. So they decide to—knowing the risks and what to avoid to prevent addiction—have a little fun. Are prescription drugs only legal to use as long as they make you feel worse, or can you legally get high on them providing you are willing to sensibly manage the risks of addiction and/or overdose?

I am not asking if such a practice is wise. I jolly well know it isn’t. I’m just wondering about how the law would view it. Of course, operating a motor vehicle while high or using dangerous machinery of any kind would definitely be a legal issue, so let’s set those behaviors aside. For purposes of this question, assume our unwise partier does this in a setting where at the very worst, they aren’t going to hurt anybody but themselves.

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16 Answers

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Legally prescribed means legally prescribed. I’ve got some hydrocodone left over from my prostate surgery, that I had around 2 years back. I took some about a month ago to deal with a severe sinus headache and it worked. Yeah, I got a little buzz from it, too. Had I taken it just because I wanted the buzz, you could make an argument that I was abusing it, but not illegally.

glenjamin's avatar

As long as it is legally obtained, how and when you use it is entirely up to you (as long as you’re not giving it to anyone else). So you could probably chop it up and snort it if you wanted.

coffeenut's avatar

As long as you are not selling/giving away/trading for things…....you can still legally use them even if you don’t have the illness anymore.

iamthemob's avatar

Taking prescription drugs in any manner other than that which the doctor recommends/prescribes is, in fact, illegal. Will it be prosecuted? I don’t think it ever has unless it was really egregious – like selling your prescription, or using those prescribed to another – e.g., things clearly outside the realm of prescribed use.

Therefore, using it for something other than the actual complaint it was prescribed for is a crime. You’ll notice that things like inhalants, over-the-counter medications, etc., have federal warnings stating that they cannot be used other than the purposes described for their specific use. To do so (e.g., huff paint thinner) is also illegal – and prosecutable.

marinelife's avatar

My brother-in-law sold my sister’s pain medication the same day she died. It was gross.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@iamthemob , the label on my prescription bottle says take 1 or 2 tablets every 4 hours as needed for pain. I was in pain. How did I break the law?

iamthemob's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex – as it was prescribed to deal with the pain associated with the surgery, the fact that the actual written prescription may not dictate that does not mean that it wasn’t specific.

If, for some reason, someone “discovered” that you had done it, and interviewed your doctor, your doctor would say that he had not prescribed them for general pain. Therefore, you would not have a prescription for the drugs for that use, and it would be a violation of the law (the prescription is, in many ways, like a limited license for use).

Now, again, would that ever happen? Surely not. If you were for some odd reason arrested for it, would any sane prosecutor ever try the case? I doubt it. If it went to trial in some bizarre universe, would a jury convict? I would argue there would be a case of jury nullification or a finding of not guilty despite guilt. It’s like jaywalking – would you get a ticket for it? Only if it’s particularly egregious – otherwise, it’s one of those that won’t be enforced.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Since you are worrying about taking them before they get stale it’s pretty darned clear you are not a drug abuser. Enjoy! The scrip is in your name.
Rush’s Oxys were always so new they still had the new car smell on them.

VS's avatar

My Demerol Rx says “Take 1–2 tablets prn for pain” – it does not specifically state back pain (for which it was prescribed). So if I have a horrendous headache (hypothetical because I never get headaches), it would not be illegal for me to take my own meds for a different malady. It would be illegal for me to give it to someone else for their back pain, or sell it to someone else for theirs, but it is not illegal for me to take my own prescription as I see fit.

iamthemob's avatar

@VS – Here’s the thing – yes it arguably would be.

Again, whether or not law enforcement would pursue prosecuting these laws, they are still laws.

Here’s what needs to be considered – the prescription will not contain all of the information regarding the prescription. However, if the doctor is asked, he or she will state that it was only for the back pain in question. And it is not that you need that information on the prescription sheet, as you know what it was prescribed for – and that will be clear in all the doctor’s files. So it can’t be that you unknowingly thought it was for any pain – you know why you got it.

What hasn’t been mentioned is that this is also in the interest of the doctor so that they can prescribe medication so that it can be used in a reasonably open way but not be understood to be giving carte blanche to use however the patient wants to. This is because if, for some reason, the medication was used later for some pain that it wasn’t intended to be used for, it may at that time have effects on the user that the doctor could not control for because they hadn’t examined the patient and discovered that the pain it was used for would actually mean that the drug was toxic; or that in between the patient had been prescribed another drug that would interact in a deadly or harmful way.

It’s not too strict because if it were, the doctor would have to diligently follow up or be subject to constant calls about whether they can take it for this, and say no, or that, and say yes, etc.

It is not to be used as you see fit – but in the manner prescribed and due to the reasons the physician thought it was going to be used.

Ladymia69's avatar

I’ve done it. Sometimes I still do it.

perspicacious's avatar

No it isn’t.

Ladymia69's avatar

With the aggressiveness that drug companies push pain medication, and the amount of shady doctors willing to prescribe narcotics to patients (especially in small towns), they should not be getting up on their high horses about people abusing the drugs. That reeks of hypocrisy.

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob Very interesting. I suppose from a liability standpoint it makes perfect sense to limit the use of a prescription to one and only one malady. But wouldn’t it look ridiculous to have 4 bottles of Oxycontin in your medicine cabinet because you have a sprained ankle, then threw your back out, then got a cramp in your neck muscles and finally got a splitting headache from the inanity of it all?

KonanBarbarian's avatar

Doesn’t it say right on the bottle to take a certain number of pills as needed?

They were legally prescribed, and you needed them, right?

Be sure you understand that becoming addicted to pain meds and increasing your tolerance to them from recreational overuse will make them less effective for you when you actually are in real pain and need them to ease said pain!

iamthemob's avatar

@ETpro – Of course it would be ridiculous. But again, I have never heard of any prosecution for it. It’s pretty much there in case people end up hurting themselves taking the drugs.

Think of it more like liability CYA for the pharmas and physicians.

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