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Can You Go to Jail for a Schedule 5 Drug Charge?

North Carolina law lists illegal substances on a drug schedule from I-VI. Even though the drugs listed on schedule 5 have low potential for abuse and, in addition, have medical uses, there are still legal penalties for possessing most of them without a prescription. Let’s look at Schedule 5 substances and what can happen if law enforcement charges you with possession. We will answer the question, “Can You Go to Jail for a Schedule 5 drug charge?”

The scheduled substances in NC include prescription and illicit street drugs. Schedule 1 drugs tend to be street drugs and have the harshest penalties associated with possession. These drugs tend to be highly addictive and have no medical use. They also have high potential to harm users. 

On the other hand, schedule 6 drugs primarily consist of marijuana and its byproducts. Schedule 6 drugs have less chance of addiction and come with more minor penalties for possession. 

What is on Schedule 5?

Schedule 5 includes many prescription drugs. Some of these were available over the counter in the past. Kaopectate, for example, contained ingredients that are now listed as Schedule 5. Because Kaopectate changed ingredients, it is still an over-the-counter medication available for wide use.

Schedule 5 medications have a low potential for abuse. Many are still prescribed for patients today. Some of the medicines on the list were approved for prescription use by the FDA as recently as 2019. Abuse of a schedule 5 substance may lead to limited dependence. 

Schedule V Substances in NC

Schedule 5 includes antidiarrheal, antitussive, analgesic, anti-convulsant, and stimulant drugs. NC Law lists more in-depth definitions of every Schedule 5 Substance, but they include:

  • Cough medicine compounds containing limited codeine, dihydrocodeine, ethylmorphine, opium, and atropine. One example is terpin hydrate with codeine. Terpin hydrate loosens mucus while codeine suppresses your urge to cough. Cough meds with less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters, such as Robitussin AC also fall into schedule 5.
  • Antidiarrheal medications such as: 
    • Lomotil and Motofen work by decreasing the number and frequency of bowel movements by slowing intestinal movement. They contain small quantities of manufactured narcotics, diphenoxylate or difenoxin hydrochloride, which are chemically related to meperidine (Demerol). This small amount of narcotic slows the digestive system down. 
    • Parepectolin is another medication that helps diarrhea by adsorbing fluid to decrease the number of diarrhea stools.
  • Lyrica (pregabalin) is a medication used to treat pain caused by nerve damage due to diabetes, shingles (herpes zoster) infection, or spinal cord injury. It also has FDA approval to treat seizures and fibromyalgia. Off-label, it is often used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, insomnia, and chronic pain conditions.
  • Ezogabine, Brivaracetam, Cenobamate, and Lacosamide are all used to control partial-onset seizures (seizures that involve only one part of the brain)
  • Lasmiditan (Reyvow) is a medication to treat acute migraines with or without aura. 
  • Pyrovalerone (Centroton, Thymergix) is a psychoactive drug with stimulant effects that acts as a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). It is used to treat fatigue or as an appetite suppressant for weight loss.

Schedule 5 OTC Medications

Retail pharmacies may sell some schedule 5 substances without a prescription, but only when sold by a registered pharmacist. If law enforcement finds one of these medications sold by a pharmacist in your possession, you are not doing anything illegal unless you have large amounts of the substance you plan to resell. 

When you buy a schedule 5 substance from a pharmacist, they will ask you for identification with proof of age. The pharmacist then records your name and address on their list of consumers who bought the medication along with your purchase date and time. 

Schedule 5 Prescription Medications

If you possess a prescription-only medication, you must have an active prescription from a medical doctor. If you have an active prescription, it is not illegal to possess or use one of these drugs. But keep in mind that your prescription must be active, and you must take it as prescribed. If you carry around a prescription drug that expired years ago, you could face charges of possession. You should also make sure to keep the drug in its prescription container.

Some prescription drugs have warnings about driving while taking them. Even if you are taking the lawfully prescribed amount, if it causes impairment, you can be charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI).  If you drive erratically, law enforcement may pull you over and ultimately determine that you were driving while impaired. With a DWI, you may spend time at the police station and be required to provide blood for chemical testing. Prosecutors may use the results of blood testing in a court of law.

Can You Go to Jail for a Schedule 5 Drug Charge?

In NC, if it’s your first time charged with possession of a Schedule V substance, you could face a Class 2 misdemeanor charge, including up to 30 days in jail, fines, and a criminal record. 

You could face Class 1 misdemeanor charges, 45 days in jail, fines, and a criminal record as a second-time offender. It is also common to have a probation officer or have to complete community service. 

Don’t Face Drug Charges Alone

If you’re facing charges for a Schedule V substance, don’t live in denial of the seriousness of the potential consequences. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you could also face felony PWISD or trafficking charges with longer prison sentences and higher fines. Regardless of the type of charges, a criminal defense attorney who knows how to investigate the case and negotiate with the prosecutor is necessary. 

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we understand the overwhelming stress that comes with drug crime charges, and we want to help you get through this time. With our experience and knowledge of the law, we work to help you come out the other side without a criminal record that could prevent you from getting a good job or renting an apartment. We investigate every angle of your arrest, look for any violations of your rights by law enforcement, and consider how best to work through the case to get your best results. Contact us and find out how we can help you find your way through our criminal justice system.