Drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five distinct categories or schedules depending upon the drug’s acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) carefully considers the abuse rate of the drugs and substances before rating the scheduling. The list below is intended as general reference.
DEA Drug Scheduling
How Scheduling Works
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) works with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in various studies, testing substances effectiveness, risks, and if they are fit for medical use. Any substance with intention to enter the market legally is reviewed. Common street drugs are also reviewed when rising in popularity. Drug classifications or scheduling have been in place since the passing of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in the 1970’s which accompanied President Nixon’s War on Drugs, giving the FDA a seat in substance decision making.
The first step includes the DEA determining if the substance can be abused. If a yes is determined, the substance enters the scheduling system. Substances require large-scale clinical trials to determine medical merit to keep them from Schedule I classification. This can account for reclassification of some substances. For example, in 2014 the DEA reclassified hydrocodone from a Schedule III to a Schedule II substance. The scheduling system is meant to assist medical professionals, lawmakers, and other officials assess the benefits and potential for abuse with various substances. This list is:
Drugs considered most dangerous by the DEA are known as Schedule I substances. These are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and carry a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:
- Marijuana (cannabis)
- Bath salts
Schedule II substances are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse. Their use potentially leads to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are:
Schedule III substances are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III substances can still lead to abuse or addiction but are considered less dangerous than Schedule I or II substances. These substances can be purchased at a pharmacy with a medical prescription. Some examples of Schedule III drugs are:
- Tylenol with codeine
- Anabolic steroids
Schedule IV substances are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. They have a considerably low potential for abuse however can still lead to addiction if misused or mixed with additional substances. Some examples of Schedule IV drugs are:
Schedule V substances are defined as drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes. The most common Schedule V substance is cough syrup. With misuse of these substances physical or psychological dependency is most common. Some examples of Schedule V drugs are:
- Robitussin AC
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