Prescription drugs are only legal when prescribed by a doctor, dentist, veterinarian, nurse practitioner or midwife. It is illegal to possess these drugs without a valid prescription or to get multiple prescriptions filled by different pharmacies.
Prescription drugs are regulated under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act. There are several different categories, the main ones being anabolic steroids, painkillers, stimulants and tranquillizers/barbiturates.
Anabolic steroids act like testosterone as they promote the growth of muscles as well as the development of male sexual features. They are prescribed by doctors to treat medical conditions such as delayed puberty or cancer.
Side effects can include aggression, reduced sex drive, depression, infertility, breast development, shrinking of testicles, growth of body hair and acne. Their street names include Roids, Juice, Doping and Arnolds.
The primary prescription painkillers used illegally in Canada are morphine, oxycodone/oxycontin and codeine, with street names including Oxy, Big C, Killer and Hillbilly Heroin. These medications are prescribed by doctors to relieve pain. These drugs release dopamine in the brain, triggering sensations of happiness and pleasure. They also interfere with the transmission of pain messages to the brain.
Side effects include dilated pupils, vision problems, nausea/vomiting, constipation, decreased appetite and insomnia.
Common stimulants that are trafficked include Ritalin and Adderall, with stimulants going by the street names of Kiddles and Bits, Kiddy Cocaine, Skippy, Smarties and Smart Drug. When prescribed properly, they are used to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. People use them illegally believing they will increase energy levels and reduce hunger.
Stimulants trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, triggering feelings of happiness and pleasure. They also speed up cranial activity, causing an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism. In addition, they narrow blood vessels in the body and decrease blood flow and oxygen to the heart.
Side effects can include sweating, dilated pupils, decreased appetite, aggressiveness, paranoia, hallucinations and possibly seizures
Common forms of these drugs include Valium, Xanax and Ativan, with street names including Benzo, Tranquilizers, Tranks, Downers and Barbs. They are prescribed for anxiety or sleep problems, as they increase the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which results in a decrease in brain activity. That leads to feelings of drowsiness and calmness and a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure.
People illegally take these drugs to relieve anxiety and stress and enhance their enjoyment. Side effects may include impaired coordination, slurred speech, paranoia, aggressiveness, liver damage and sleep problems
The penalties related to any prescription drug depend on the nature of the offence, the quantity of drugs involved and the offender’s criminal history. Possession of opioids without a valid prescription is considered a criminal offence and can result in penalties such as imprisonment and fines. Distribution of opioids can result in even more severe penalties. Manufacturing opioids carries the harshest penalties.
Drug crimes are generally distinguished as either possession or sales offences. If you are charged with possessing a small amount of illegally obtained oxycodone, you will likely face a light sentence for a first conviction. Selling or distributing narcotics comes with much more severe penalties.
For example, oxycodone, codeine and morphine are all Schedule I drugs in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. If you are convicted of obtaining one of those Schedule I or Schedule II drugs, you could be imprisoned for up to seven years.
If you are convicted of trafficking a Schedule I or II drug, the maximum sentence is 10 years in prison. And if you are convicted of manufacturing a Schedule I or II drug, the maximum penalty is life in prison.
Keep in mind that an exchange of money is not required for a conviction; transferring a controlled substance such as oxycodone from one person to another is enough.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there were 38,514 apparent opioid toxicity deaths between January 2016 and March 2023.. In the first three months of 2023, there were 1,904 apparent opioid toxicity deaths or an average of 21 deaths per day. The majority occurred in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, with males accounting for 73 per cent of victims.
For opioid-related poisoning hospitalizations, fentanyl and its analogues were involved in 36 per cent of accidental opioid-related poisoning hospitalizations, compared to 19 per cent of intentional opioid-related poisoning hospitalizations so far in 2023. The percentage of all opioid-related poisoning hospitalizations that involved fentanyl and its analogues has increased 106 per cent since 2018 when national surveillance began, but appears to have stabilized in recent years.
If you have been arrested in the Ottawa region on any drug charge, prescription or otherwise, you need experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel. Contact me and we can discuss the circumstances that led to the charge and the options for your defence.