Can I send Zoloft through the USPS without ending up locked up in a dark, damp hole for the next 25 years?
June 7, 2006 1:19 AM   Subscribe

I've got a several month's supply of Zoloft sitting around that I no longer use. I'd like to send it to a friend in another city, as she's got no insurance and the damn stuff's expensive. We both have valid scripts. Am I asking for trouble?

I'm planning on using USPS and I'm in the states (duh). I'd like to just wrap 'em in some bubble wrap and throw the things in a padded envelope, as bottles are bulky and rattly (and have my name, not hers, on 'em), which I'd assume would arouse the suspicions of a bored postal clerk. I'd like to enclose a copy of her script, but she's running low and I'm planning on doing this sometime tomorrow.

The whole thing seems not all that legal to me, but it also seems like the repercussions would be mild (if at all) and worth the risk - she's a good friend, after all. If x-rayed (do they really do that?) and opened by the Man, would they just seal it up and send it on it's way when it's realized the pills are antidepressants and not Oxycontin or roofies, or would I run the risk of having USPS Federales kick in my door?
posted by item to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hrmm, if you get busted, you could probably explain your way out of it. However, it is almost certainly illegal to share your prescription drugs with another person, regardless of whether or not they have a valid prescription for it. (IANAD, and IANAL)
posted by antifuse at 2:50 AM on June 7, 2006

Stuff some cotton wool into the tops of the bottles to stop the pills rattling about.

Call your local post office and ask, anonymously, if you are allowed to mail medication which you have a legitimate prescription for. I don't see any reason for them to ask why, but you could make up something about sending a parcel with some supplies for yourself, to be collected when you visit your friend after some travelling.
posted by tomble at 3:15 AM on June 7, 2006

I've had my parents mail me medications many times before (maybe even zoloft?). No one cared.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:05 AM on June 7, 2006

No problem. Technically illegal to share your meds like that, but no one will care. You can mail meds with no problem.
posted by OmieWise at 5:16 AM on June 7, 2006

Pack the bottle with cotton as suggested to eliminate curiosity and you should be ok. On a Zoloft-related note, a generic is coming out either this month or next, if I remember the bulletin we got this at the pharmacy I work at.
posted by chickygrrl at 5:23 AM on June 7, 2006

Mail the package to yourself at your friends address, then they'd have no (major) reason to suspect something strange was going on. I've gone away on business or vacation before and forgotten various medications and they've been shipped to me with no problem.
posted by necessitas at 5:38 AM on June 7, 2006

I second the “stuff cotton” advice—or paper towel, Kleenex, whatever—a/w/a a padded envelope. The USPS doesn’t open domestic mail under these circumstances (if it’s, say, dripping blood, that’s another matter...).

Sending prescription medications by mail is legal; I don’t see how a pharmacy sending someone their medicine (legal), or a parent sending their college-attending child a prescription or refill—eg, for insurance coverage reasons—(also legal), is different than one person who legally, with an up-to-date prescription for medication ‘A’, sends another person with a legal, up-to-date prescription for medication ‘A’, some medication ‘A’. There just doesn’t seem to be any ‘this could be illegal’ part of the equation.

IANAD, IANAL, IANA Postal Inspector, but I am a college student with the above experiences, including having sent an epileptic family member medication refills while he was studying abroad.
posted by Yeomans at 5:45 AM on June 7, 2006

...but it also seems like the repercussions would be mild (if at all) and worth the risk.

I went cold turkey on Zoloft after only using it for about half a year and those were 2 of the worst months of my life (I was a lot more depressed than when I started). This stuff takes a while to get into your system, and a hell of a lot longer to leave. In order to avoid crashing her system like this, she would have to taper her dosage down over a few at the end.

Would several months supply be enough? I don't think it would be.
posted by dobie at 6:29 AM on June 7, 2006

Yeomans, I believe the legal issue is that the poster is dispensing prescription medicine without a pharmacy license (and also, presumably, is not the doctor who prescribed the Zoloft--doctors can dispense medicine they've prescribed). Not that I think that should stop the poster in this case, personally. IANAL.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:37 AM on June 7, 2006

When I was out of my med, an acquaintance of mine who is also bipolar gave me her stash of Lamictal (she had just filled a script then wound up switching meds.) It was exactly my prescription at exactly my dose. Yes, technically I suppose this was illegal but practically speaking I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. Why should she have to trash perfectly good meds that I had a prescription for?

Meanwhile, your friend needs to check to see if she can get on one of those programs run by the pharm companies themselves that supply free meds to low income folk. She very well may qualify.
posted by konolia at 6:59 AM on June 7, 2006

Yeah, it's illegal. If you're really concerned about a postmaster getting unduly interested in your particular mail, use FedEx. And, as others said, pack the pills with cotton.
posted by Merdryn at 8:09 AM on June 7, 2006

We were just sent a notice about this yesterday. Prescription medication can only be sent through the mail by a licensed pharmacist in a USPS approved mailer. Section 601 of the Domestic Mail Manual deals with general questions about mailability. Section 601.11.11 addresses OTC and prescription drugs. You can find it here:
posted by faceonmars at 8:22 AM on June 7, 2006

Peel off the label on your bottle when you send it. After all - it's not illegal to send someone back THEIR meds that they left at your house, right? *wink
posted by horsemuth at 8:52 AM on June 7, 2006

Is it illegal to send someone back their meds that they left at your house? I don't know, but it is definitely against (US) postal regulations. If you tell the window clerk they won't accept the package for mailing, and if the meds are discovered in the mailstream, they will be destroyed.
posted by faceonmars at 9:09 AM on June 7, 2006

My dad (a doctor) used to send me bags of those free samples they give out of prescription anti-allergy meds. I second the advice to mail it to yourself at her address, though.
posted by EarBucket at 9:10 AM on June 7, 2006

Pack it well, mail it. If you are asked, it's becasue you plan to visit.

dobie's point is very impotaint. Your friend should find a way to obtain this legally over the long term before starting these pills, even if they start with your extra supply. Going cold turky is a "very bad idea".

Withdrawal Symptoms may include:
Muscle and joint pain
Jolting electric "zaps”
Tingling sensations
Abdominal discomfort
Flu symptoms and general malaise
Sleep disturbance and insomnia
Vivid dreams
Anorexia, agitation
Memory and concentration difficulties
Visual hallucinations
Blurred vision
Gait disturbances
Chills and hot flashes
Crying spells
Suicidal thoughts
posted by edgeways at 9:11 AM on June 7, 2006

If possible, send the prescription in the original dispensing container, especially if your name is still on it (presuming you send it to "your name" at your friends address).

Prescriptions in their original containers, properly labeled, are much less likely to be questioned than unmarked, hidden pills.

While travelling, I have had to dispose of legal medications prescribed to me simply because they were not in their original containers. In their containers, no problem. They were schedule II opiates if it matters.
posted by karmaville at 12:39 PM on June 7, 2006

Your friend has a valid prescription. Even if someone did open the envelope and find the medication (which is so unlikely that it's not really worth worrying about) they still don't have evidence that it's not hers and neither of you are obligated to answer any questions about it.

Unless there's something about your envelope that makes someone handling it absolutlely certain that something illegal is going on, no-one will open it.
posted by winston at 6:31 PM on June 7, 2006

Winston, it doesn't matter who has a valid prescription. It doesn't matter who owns the drugs. Prescription drugs can only be sent through the Postal Service by a licensed pharmacist. The only exception to this is when the drugs are recalled. In that case, the drugs can ONLY be sent TO a licensed pharmacist. The USPS Domestic Mail Manual (Section 601.11.11) and USPS Publication 52 (Hazardous Materials) section 483 deal with this very issue.

While there's a good chance the drugs won't be detected, if a package is suspected of containing nonmailable items or substances, it will be held and possibly opened. If the package is accidentally opened and drugs are found, they will be disposed of.

I don't know, but I suspect that Fedex and UPS have similar rules. The original poster should possibly wait until their friend visits and personally hand over the zoloft.
posted by faceonmars at 7:32 PM on June 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

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