Can You Ship Medicine Through USPS? (All You Need to Know)

Say, for example, that your aunt comes to visit, and when she leaves you notice she has left her prescription drugs on your bathroom counter. You want to return it to her, but you’re just not sure…is that even allowed through the mail?

So, can you ship medicine through USPS, or do you have to find some other way of getting prescription drugs to their destination? Before you try it, here’s what you need to know!

Can You Ship Medicine Through USPS In 2024?

You can’t ship prescription medicine through USPS unless you are a DEA-approved drug manufacturer or another authorized dispenser in 2024. Over-the-counter medication is allowed, though, provided they are suitably packaged. The punishment for sending prescription drugs through USPS depends but may be harsh if there has been a pattern of offense or the amount is prodigious.

Let’s take a closer look at what you can and cannot send through the mail, medicine-wise, what happens if you send prescription drugs through the mail, and even if USPS X-Rays packages to search for drugs. Keep reading!

Can You Mail Prescription Drugs With USPS?

You cannot send prescription drugs through the United States Postal Service, even if either the recipient or the sender is the valid prescription holder.

At this time, the only entities permitted to send prescription medicine through the mail are DEA-approved drug manufacturers.

Currently, this definition includes pharmacies, medical practitioners, or other authorized dispensers.

The reason behind this is the growing prevalence of drug abuse, specifically opioids; at the same time, laws have gotten stricter about searching mail.

Overall, the two things happening at once have led to an increase in the USPS being used to further drug abuse.

Therefore, to stop this from happening, all prescription drugs are not allowed to be shipped by everyday people.

There are some exceptions, though, such as the following:

  • Product recalls: Where the pharmacy has sent the wrong drug or dose, or when the drug is being recalled in its entirety.
  • DEA mail-back programs: Designed to remove unused or unwanted drugs from the populace, mail-backs get potentially harmful prescription drugs off the streets.

In both of these cases, you will receive special materials for sending the prescription medication back through the mail.

Can You Ship Over-the-Counter Medicine With USPS?

You can send over-the-counter (OTC) medication through the mail, without any issue.

Currently, this runs the gamut from cold medicine to pain reducers like ibuprofen or Tylenol, to allergy medication, etc.

When sending these types of materials through the mail, it’s best to just use your common sense about packaging.

For example, a bottle of something might warrant some bubble wrap, whereas a plastic container, inside a product box, should be okay just thrown into another box or bubble mailer.

What Happens If You Send Medication Through the Mail?

What Happens If You Send Medication Through the Mail? USPS

If you send medication, specifically prescription medication, through the mail, a few things could happen.

First: Let’s face it, nothing might happen. You could get away with it.

It’s somewhat likely, considering the state of the Postal Service’s finances, which haven’t been solvent in over a decade.

USPS simply doesn’t have the resources to check every single package for signs of illicit substances being sent.

However, let’s say you don’t get away with it; it’s difficult to say what the punishment would be because it depends on a few different factors.

First, is this your first offense? Do you have a history of committing crimes, whether using the USPS or not?

Second, how much have you sent? Is it just one half-used bottle of antibiotic, or are you sending enough Vicodin that it looks like you have intent to sell?

Third, and last, what is the prescription drug you are sending? As mentioned above, a half-used bottle of antibiotics doesn’t point to a crime ring, so much as ignorance.

But opioids, such as the aforementioned Vicodin or Oxycontin, are incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands.

So, if you have a history of selling drugs or enabling the sale of them, and you get caught trying to mail a bunch of bottles of Oxy to someone else…you’re going to be in pretty big trouble.

What Happens If USPS Finds Drugs in a Package?

While First-Class Letter and Package mail is covered by the Fourth Amendment and cannot be opened without first producing a warrant, no other mail classes are.

So, if you tried to send a box of prescription drugs via Priority Mail, and someone heard them rattling around in their bottles, USPS could open the package then and there.

However, if you sent a small bottle via First-Class Package, there is some hoop jumping the Postal Service would have to go through in order to open your parcel.

First, USPS would need to have proof of suspicion, and then they would have to use that proof to obtain a warrant.

Without a warrant, First-Class packages cannot be legally opened and investigated.

However, either way, if USPS finds prescription drugs, they may actually initiate a sting operation.

That is, law enforcement would pose as USPS to deliver the parcel because it’s not only illegal to send drugs, but it’s also illegal to receive them.

Are USPS Packages X-Rayed?

USPS packages do get X-Rayed, although it happens more frequently in bigger cities, where the larger number of parcels going in and out means more opportunities for crime.

If you live in any of the U.S.’s major metropolitan areas, and you’re considering sending your friend their prescription allergy medication via the Postal Service, we caution against it.

This is something to be wary of because, not only is it illegal, but doing so from a bigger city makes it easier for you to be caught.

Also, don’t write “Do Not X-Ray” on your parcel, as it just makes the box a target that is absolutely going to be looked at more closely.

To know more, you can also read our posts on USPS 3 Day shipping, the fastest USPS shipping method, and does USPS ship to Thailand.


You cannot ship prescription medicine using USPS unless you’re a DEA-authorized entity or agent. Doing so without authorization may result in jailtime and fines.

However, OTC medication, like Tylenol or Pepto Bismol, is fair game, provided you package the items, particularly liquid, in a safe and secure manner.

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Mackenzie Jerks

Mackenzie is a freelance writer and editor, published author, and music enthusiast who holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. When she’s not writing, Mackenzie is either wrapped up in a book, discovering new music, or introducing herself to a new fitness regimen.

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