Most people know to avoid illegal substances for health and legal reasons. However, some people do not understand the dangers of prescription painkillers. This false sense of safety is highest among young adults, who are most likely to use these drugs without a prescription, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

However, the truth is sobering. Overdosing has increased significantly in the U.S., with many near-deaths as well. Know the facts to prevent hurting your future.

Health consequences

Painkillers such as oxycodone and morphine are Schedule II controlled substances according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The lower the classification number, the more dangerous the substance is. These painkillers require a prescription for a reason: They are highly addictive and need monitoring by a qualified medical provider to ensure proper usage. The only reason they are not in the most controlled class is that the law recognizes them as medically beneficial, unlike the drugs in Schedule I, such as heroin and ecstasy.

If you take prescription narcotics or stimulants, follow your doctor’s orders and keep the medication locked away where other family members, particularly children, cannot get to it. Abuse of these drugs results in harm to health and possibly criminal charges or fatality.

Criminal consequences

Prescription painkillers can lead to trouble with the law in the following ways:

  • Forging a prescription or obtaining one in any other illegal manner
  • Taking someone else’s prescription
  • Sharing your prescription with others
  • Making or selling painkillers

These are illegal even if you have a real medical need for the drug, so be sure to go through the proper process. Once you have a prescription, be aware that these drugs have side effects that can lead to unintentional criminal actions. For example, you may engage in risky behavior or may unknowingly drive impaired and get a DUI. Convictions can lead to years-long imprisonment along with high fines.