Understanding prescription drug charges and penalties

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2022 | Drug Crimes

Prescription drug addiction has been growing at an alarming rate across Canada. Because prescribed drugs are legal, there is a common misconception that all forms of using or sharing such drugs is also legal. This is not the case.

Many people think of drug crimes as only involving illicit drugs – such as cocaine or methamphetamines. However, legal prescription drugs can also result in drug charges if handled in an illicit way.

When can prescription drugs be illegal?

If you have been prescribed a controlled substance, such as oxycodone, you are free to take it in the manner with which it was prescribed. However, it is illegal to possess prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you, and to distribute prescription drugs to others.

What is the legal definition of drug trafficking?

The term “trafficking” is commonly misinterpreted as meaning “selling.” However, this is only part of the definition. Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, drug trafficking can also include:

  • The offer to sell a substance (even if it is not in your possession)
  • Holding a drug for someone with the intention of returning it to the owner
  • Giving someone a drug for free – with no monetary transaction


As with any illicit drug, you could face steep fines and even jail time if convicted of a prescription drug-related crime. These penalties increase if the crime involved certain aggravating or health and safety factors, such as:

  • The offence occurred on or near a school or involves children
  • The offence involved the use or threat of violence or weapons
  • The offence involved a criminal organization
  • The offence posed a potential public health and safety hazard

It’s important to understand that prescription drug possession and distribution can be illegal – and is treated just as seriously as crimes involving illicit substances under Canadian law. If you are facing charges for such a crime, it’s important to contact an experienced criminal lawyer right away to help you build a solid defense.