Carrying Your Medication

Carrying Your Medication

Law enforcement officers pay attention to possible drug abuse, especially among teenagers and young adults. If the police stop you for something such as a traffic violation or disorderly conduct and you are carrying ADHD medication in an unmarked container, you may be at greater risk of being suspected of illegal drug use.


What is a controlled substance?

Any chemical substance or its chemical precursor (compounds that are used to make these substances) that is regulated by federal or state laws is a controlled substance. These laws cover when and if it is illegal for someone to make the drug, have it in their possession, or use or sell it.


What is the Controlled Substances Act?

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA; Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, 21 USC Sec. 812) says which substances are controlled in the United States and are subject to strict regulation. The CSA identifies many substances, including those considered illegal drugs or “street drugs,” along with numerous medications that treat a variety of medical and psychological conditions, but which also may be subject to misuse. (For more information, see Medication Abuse and Diversion.)

The CSA uses five levels (Schedule I through V) that put drugs or substances in each level based on their potential for abuse or misuse and whether there are approved medical uses for the drug. For example, Schedule V drugs have lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV drugs, and the drug has an approved use in medical treatment in the United States. Schedule I drugs have the highest potential to be abused and have no medical use.

The CSA is a federal law and provides a set of standards that apply throughout the United States. Individual states, however, may have their own laws on medications, more rules regarding who and how medication is dispensed or carried, or higher penalties for not following those rules.


Are ADHD medications considered controlled substances?

Yes, most medications used to treat ADHD, including the various types of methylphenidate (such as Ritalin and Concerta) and amphetamine (such as Adderall), are considered controlled substances. This is why most prescriptions for ADHD medications are typically not for more than 30 days. Most ADHD medications are classified as Schedule II substances. Methylphenidate and mixed-amphetamine salts were originally classified as Schedule III substances in the original 1970 legislation. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassified them as Schedule II substances in 2001, which categorized them as more likely to be misused and abused.

According to the DEA, a substance is classified as Schedule II if it has “a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.”


Is it illegal to carry ADHD medications?

No, it is generally not considered illegal to carry ADHD medication as long as the person carrying the medication is the person, parent or caretaker for whom the medication has been properly prescribed. Some states have laws that require the medication be carried in the original prescription bottle with a current label that identifies the person for whom the medication is intended. In other states, proof of prescription is generally considered sufficient.


How can I protect myself when I need to carry my medications?

  1. Know the law in your state.
  2. For everyday purposes, only carry your medication outside the home if absolutely necessary.
  3. If you need to carry your medication with you, it’s best to carry it in its original prescription bottle that clearly identifies your name and date of prescription. When filling your prescription, you can also ask your pharmacist for an extra labeled bottle to carry smaller quantities of your medication out of the house.
  4. Consider carrying a copy of your most recent prescription from your physician, especially when you’re traveling.

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