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Understanding Drug Schedules

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, is the legal cornerstone of the government’s war against drug abuse. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has divided these substances into five categories, called “schedules,” based on each drug’s (1) potential for abuse, (2) safety, (3) addictive potential and (4) whether or not it has any legitimate medical applications.

Schedule 1 (I) Drugs

Schedule 1 (I) drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined by the federal government as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule 1 (I) drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.

Examples of Schedule 1 (I) Drugs:
  • Heroin

  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)

  • Marijuana (cannabis)

  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy)

  • Methaqualone

  • Peyote

Schedule 2 (II) Drugs

Schedule 2 (II) drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, less abuse potential than Schedule 1 (I) drugs, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.

Examples of Schedule 2 (II) Drugs:
  • Cocaine

  • Methamphetamine

  • Methadone

  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)

  • Meperidine (Demerol)

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)

  • Fentanyl

  • Dexedrine

  • Adderall

  • Ritalin

Schedule 3 (III) Drugs

Schedule 3 (III) drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule 3 (III) drugs abuse potential is less than Schedule 1 (I) and Schedule 2 (II) drugs but more than Schedule 4 (IV).

Examples of Schedule 3 (III) Drugs:
  • Combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin)

  • Products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine)

  • Ketamine

  • Anabolic steroids

  • Testosterone

Schedule 4 (IV) Drugs

Schedule 4 (IV) drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.

Examples of Schedule 4 (IV) Drugs:
  • Xanax

  • Soma

  • Darvon

  • Darvocet

  • Valium

  • Ativan

  • Talwin

  • Ambien

Schedule 5 (V) Drugs

Schedule 5 (V) drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule 4 (IV) and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule 5 (V) drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes.

Examples of Schedule (5) V Drugs:
  • Cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC)

  • Lomotil

  • Motofen

  • Lyrica

  • Parepectolin​

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