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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it illegal to carry ADHD medications?

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Note: This FAQ was prompted by questions we have received about interactions some young people have had with police and other law enforcement agencies.  Law enforcement officers are vigilant about prescription medication abuse, especially among teenagers and young adults. If you come to the attention of the police for another problem 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 use of a controlled substance.

What is a "controlled substance"?

A "controlled substance" is defined as any chemical substance or its chemical precursor whose manufacture, possession, or use is controlled and regulated by law.

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) identifies those substances which are considered "controlled substances" in the United States and which are subject to strict regulation. The CSA has a 5-level "Schedule" that identifies which drugs or substances are considered to be "controlled substances" and thus subject to this regulation. A particular substance is assigned to one of these Schedules (I - V) based on its potential for abuse. The CSA identifies many substances, including those which are 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 Diversion.)

The CSA is a federal law and provides a baseline set of standards that apply throughout the United States. Individual states may have expanded lists of medications, more rules regarding who and how medication is dispensed or carried or higher penalties for noncompliance. 

Are ADHD medications considered "controlled substances"?

Yes, most medications used to treat ADHD - including the various formulations of methylphenidate and amphetamine - 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 (see Note below) substances. (Among other criteria, a substance is classified as Schedule II if the "(a)buse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.")

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 for whom the medication has been properly prescribed.  However, depending on the state in which one lives (e.g. New York), state law may require that 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.

If I'm concerned about this, what should I do?

  1. Know the law in your state (we are currently researching these and will provide resources soon).
  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 the patient's name and date of prescription.
  4. It may also be advisable to carry a copy of your most recent prescription from your physician.
  5. If traveling away from home - especially internationally - be sure to take your medication in its original bottle, take only the amount of medication you will need, and carry a copy of your current prescription.

Note: Though classified as Schedule III substances in the original 1970 legislation, methylphenidate and mixed-amphetamine salts were reclassified as a Schedule II substances in 2001. The DEA has the authority to change the Schedule for any substance at any time through the regulatory process.  

Added November 2009

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