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An overview of criminal prescription drug laws

By now the vast majority of Americans know all about the never-ending "War on Drugs" and that substances like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are illegal in every way. These types of substances have been causing problems in our society for as long as they have been around, with ebbs and flows in popularity and availability causing some to be more problematic than others at times. However, what many people may not know is that prescription drugs, such as Vicodin, Xanax and OxyContin, are just as much a part of drug use and drug trafficking in New Jersey and throughout the country.

New Jersey, like most states, breaks down these prescription drugs into categories, known as "schedules," in accordance with federal definitions. The breakdown isn't so much based on how dangerous these substances are perceived to be as it is based on whether or not the substance in question has any legitimate use for medical purposes. For instance, drugs like heroin and ecstasy are listed as Schedule I substances because they have no legitimate medical use. However, drugs like Valium and Adderall are Schedule III substances - a category of drugs that are commonly used as part of medical treatment in America.

Prescription drugs, just like illegal drugs, can be addictive, and that is why their use is regulated so heavily. A New Jersey resident can't simply walk into a local pharmacy and grab a bottle of Vicodin off the shelf - a prescription is needed.

Although news reports and government agencies usually focus attention on the use and trafficking of the "higher profile" drugs, like heroin and cocaine, illegal prescription drug use is beginning to catch some attention. Any New Jersey resident who is found to be in possession of a prescription drug without a valid prescription could face a drug possession charge.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is a Controlled Substance?," accessed on Oct. 10, 2014

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