What Are Drug Schedules?

What Are Drug Schedules?

The Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1970, and this act determines how drugs are organized and regulated. Drugs are placed into schedules, or categories, based on the medical value and potential risk of the substance in question. This categorization helps law enforcement professionals, medical professionals and the public at large understand the legal and physical risks of abusing a substance. The Attorney General can add or remove substances from each schedule, but he or she must do so with consideration to the guidelines that define schedules.

There are five schedules with drugs falling into the fifth being the least likely to be abused or cause addiction and those in the first carrying the most risk. Schedule I drugs have no medical use and are most likely to cause severe addiction and dependence. Some schedule I drugs include the following:

  • Heroin
  • MDMA
  • LSD
  • Cannabis

Schedule II drugs are considered less harmful or addictive than schedule I substances, and some are available in certain medical settings. However these drugs still have a high potential for abuse, and they are still dangerous and potentially deadly. Some drugs in this schedule include the following:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Cocaine
  • Fentanyl

Schedule III drugs have accepted medical uses and less potential for abuse than schedule I or II drugs. However these substances still put users at moderate risk for physical dependence and high risk for psychological dependence. Schedule III substances include the following:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Buprenorphine
  • Ketamine
  • Hydrocodone formulations that include acetaminophen or ibuprofen

Schedule IV and V drugs have accepted medical use and relatively low potential for abuse, physical dependence or psychological dependence when compared to drugs in higher schedules. Drugs in these categories include the following:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Tramadol
  • Cough suppressants containing codeine

Knowing the schedule of the drug you are using can let you know how vigilant and cautious you should be about your use, but no drug, no matter what schedule, is safe. Even if you are using a drug as prescribed, monitor your use habits, attitudes toward use and any side effects, and report these to your prescribing professional. If you are misusing a drug, know that dependence and addiction are likely and come with severe consequences to physical and mental health, professional life and personal freedom. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, speak up, take action and get help. Addiction is a progressive and chronic disease, and early intervention offers the best chances at long-term recovery. However it is never too late for recovery, and no matter what schedule drug you use or what stage of addiction you are in, we can help. Calls are free and confidential, and our admissions coordinators are here to help any time of day or night.