Penalty for Mailing Prescription Drugs, the Complete Guide

Posted by Prescription Hope - See Editorial Guidelines (Last Updated On: Tue May 30 2023)

Penalty for mailing prescription drugs

We may forget to take our drugs with us when we go away or in another innocent situation. But mailing them has consequences you may not be aware of. Here we’re going to give you a complete guide on mailing prescription drugs.

mailing prescription drugs

It’s possible that in many cases, our loved ones may forget to carry their medications with them when they go away for some time.

In such situations, the only solution you can think of is to mail them, right? But doing so is illegal and has several inherent consequences.

However, there are a few exceptions to mailing prescription drugs, which can make it legal. This article will cover all of that information and give you a full guide to mailing prescription drugs.

Mailing Prescription Drugs Is Illegal

As mentioned, it’s illegal to mail prescription drugs. It doesn’t matter what the situation is.

Perhaps it’s a drug that someone has left at your home, perhaps some drugs you want to send to a different address when you want to travel, or if you want to get back the drugs you left at someone’s house.

Whatever the situation is, it’s against postal regulations to mail prescription drugs – even if it’s within your state or across state lines, mailing prescription drugs is prohibited – except in rare circumstances.

mailing prescription drugs

Be it prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs when such mail is identified, it will be seized and destroyed. And both the receiver and the sender can likely be arrested, and face fines or possible jail time.

However, the penalty can vary depending on the regulations of the state.

For you to check the prevailing law regarding this in your state, you may have to go directly to the United States Postal Service.

The USPS will specify the laws applied at a national level.

But there are special entities and people who can mail prescription drugs. These parties have all the legal ability to mail medicines, and they’re not prohibited from doing so.

So, let’s take a quick look at who these parties are and what specifications they meet.

Who Can Mail Prescription Drugs?

Entities who are registered with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) can mail prescription drugs.

This includes drug manufacturers, pharmacies, and other licensed dispensers.

In addition to this, you can send a prescription drug if you or the receiver of the prescription drug mail is exempt from DEA registration.

Examples of this exemption include active military, law enforcement, or civil defense.

In recent times, online pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies are becoming more popular.

It’s possible only through this process of registering that these mail-order companies can mail prescription drugs without facing penalties.

Once the entities are registered under the DEA, it’s then entirely legal for them to mail prescription drugs, provided that they’re operating legally and have valid prescriptions for their mail.

When these conditions are met, prescription drugs can be mailed via the U.S. postal service.

mailing prescription drugs
woman carrying two boxes ready for mailing

Why Mailing Prescription Drugs Is Illegal

The opioid crisis and drug abuse have grown increasingly serious. This has been a leading cause of many overdose-related deaths.

For this main reason, the government has continuously taken steps to eliminate the ways and means of such abuse.

Because of this, police and federal investigators have begun focusing on drugs sent through the mail.

According to the fourth amendment, a postal worker isn’t allowed to open a package and see what’s inside.

Even if the postal worker feels there is any illegal content in the package.

The law protects senders of mail from having packages searched for illegal drugs and other controlled substances.

In the instance a postal worker finds something suspicious, a search warrant must be requested and issued. The search warrant also needs to be presented with reasonable suspicion.

It’s only through the approval of the search warrant a postal worker official will be able to open the package and see the contents inside.

With such a law in place, the rate of drugs mailed, and related abuses have consistently increased. This is one of the leading reasons why prescription drugs cannot be mailed.

U.S. Postal Service is part of the Federal Government

Moreover, due to these reasons, the laws have been made more rigid. The U.S. postal service is part of the federal government.

So, they have their inspection division under the postal service. This is where postal inspectors can screen and check for drugs in packages.

Adding to that, there are more than 200 federal laws that govern criminal conduct concerning the postal service.

So, any individual who violates them, including the mailing of prescription drugs will be subject to possible felony charges.

However, when comparing the difference between the federal postal service and private postal services like Fed Ex and UPS, private packaging companies have been consistently charged penalties for drug shipments.

Private postal services have encountered many legal penalties as a result of drug shipments. Including prescription drugs, along with illegal substances.

That information covers the most legal background of why mailing prescription drugs is prohibited. But there are few exceptions in which citizens can mail prescription drugs.

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Exceptions for Mailing Prescription Drugs

There are two main instances or exceptions where mailing prescription drugs is not illegal, and you will not be subject to any penalties. They are as follows.

1. Product Recalls and Dispensing Errors

These are instances where you receive the wrong prescription drugs and doses from the pharmacy. Or if the pharmacy makes any other dispensing errors.

This exception is also applicable to instances when the pharmacy recalls the drugs. In these cases, you can mail the prescription drugs, but they can only be mailed to the manufacturer or the manufacturer’s agent.

But before mailing back, speak to the manufacturer, your doctor, or pharmacist first. They must first send you a mailing container that is designed explicitly for mailing back the drugs using the USPS merchandise return service.

2. DEA Mail-Back Programs

Law enforcement and DEA-authorized mail-back collectors have the power to conduct mail-back programs. These are programs designed to collect back unused or unwanted medicines from the public for safe drug disposal.

But in this case, if you’re mailing your prescription drugs to mail-back programs, then you must be registered in the mail-back program.

Again, when mailing to such a program, if you’re registered, you must use the ready-made, pre-addressed postage-paid envelopes provided by the mail-back collector.

You must also follow other special instructions provided in addition to that. The envelopes provided will be spill-poof and not marked as containing medication.

You will also not be required to provide any personal information when mailing to such mail-back programs.

The above two are the only exceptions in which you can mail a prescription drug without being subject to penalties.

In all the other cases, as a mailer, you are responsible for complying with the USPS postal laws as well as federal, state, and local laws regarding the mailing of prohibited substances and prescription drugs.

It is important to remember that even if you did not receive any payment for the mailing of the prescription drug mailed, you would still be subject to penalties, most probably a felony punishable by fines and up to 15 years in prison.

And of course, the person sharing or using the prescription drugs you mailed will also be subject to illegal possession and related penalties.

So What Can You Do?

The title of this article is “Penalty for mailing prescription drugs,” so this guide is intended more to help you understand the implications of mailing drugs across state lines.

But, what can you do if you’re in a position where you need medications transferred across state borders, or even internationally?

Well, the first thing to understand is that it’s difficult, and there is no easy solution.

Laws and regulations were put in place for reasons beyond most people’s control.

So, our best advice is to be as prepared as possible. Yes, there are strict rules around mailing drugs, but here’s what you can do if you need them, short of traveling back home to obtain them.

Mailing Drugs Internationally

In short, this is going to be very difficult. If you know you’re going abroad, then our best advice where possible is to plan ahead.

Speak to your doctor before going abroad about the length of time you’ll be out of the country and ensure you have sufficient supplies to see you through.

mailing prescription drugs internationally
cargo plane in flight

Mailing Drugs Across State Lines

For this, the best we can provide is to see our article regarding Filling a Prescription in a Different State. In there, you should find some helpful advice.

Outside of these two methods, there will no doubt be individual circumstances that fall outside of this article, and outside of the overall system. Sadly we are unable to provide specific advice for these and recommend consulting your doctor.

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Mailing Prescription Drugs – To Conclude

You may not think it, but it’s a difficult area when it comes to mailing drugs. Our recommendation is always to seek advice from your doctor or better still your pharmacist before deciding to mail any drugs, for whatever reason.

If you have any questions about how Prescription Hope can help you save money on any drugs that we offer, or if you’re having trouble affording any of the medications you’ve been prescribed, contact us.

Visit the enrollment page to create an account and fill out an application and let us save you money!