Drug Scheduling System Explained

Drug Scheduling System Explained

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains a drug scheduling system that classifies drugs based on their potential for abuse. The DEA also considers how a drug affects the human body and whether it poses an addiction risk. Practitioners, researchers, manufacturers, and distributors must adhere to strict regulations in order to sell, buy or handle these substances.

If you’re unfamiliar with the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act (CSA), you may have heard about controlled substances such as “scheduled” drugs or drugs with a high potential for addiction. But what do these terms mean? How are drugs classified under the CSA? What do these restrictions mean for individuals who use medications responsibly and those who seek recovery from substance use disorders? Let’s look at the DEA’s drug scheduling system and its implications.

Drug Scheduling Overview

Drug scheduling is the process by which a drug or other substance is designated for legal control depending on its potential for abuse. Drugs are classified into five categories: Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule V. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) controls the scheduling of drugs in Schedule I. Conversely, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) controls the scheduling of drugs in Schedule II through V.

In the United States, drugs in Schedule I have no recognized medical use and a high potential for abuse. Drugs in Schedule II have a moderate to low potential for abuse. Additionally, drugs in Schedule III have a lower potential for abuse than those in Schedule I and II but still pose a risk of dependency and severe mental or physical dependence. And finally, drugs in Schedules IV and V have a low potential for abuse relative to those in Schedules III and II. But these drugs have the potential to develop dependency and severe mental or physical dependence.

In addition to scheduling by the DEA, many states also have their own schedules that regulate different classes of drugs accordingly. Generally speaking, depending on the drug’s intended use, the state schedule will place it under one of four main categories. These categories include controlled substances (non-narcotic), noncontrolled substances (such as alcohol), prescription medications, or over-the-counter medications (such as aspirin).

Breakdown of Drug Hierarchy

Let’s take a closer look at the hierarchy of drug scheduling and discuss some examples in each category.

Schedule I 

Currently, there is no accepted medical use for Schedule I substances. These substances have a high potential for abuse and are included in this category. Some examples include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.

Schedule II

A substance is considered a Schedule II drug if it has a high potential for abuse, resulting in severe physical or mental dependence, or both. These substances are classified as dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II substances are hydrocodone in combination products with less than 15 milligrams per dosage unit (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin.

Schedule III

Drugs in Schedule III are classified as having a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependency. Schedule III substances are less addictive than Schedule I and Schedule II substances, but more addictive than Schedule IV substances. Codeine, for example, is present in many over-the-counter medications in amounts less than 90 milligrams per dose (Tylenol with codeine). Ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone, and other Schedule III substances are included.

Schedule IV

Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, and Tramadol are all examples of Schedule IV drugs. These substances have a low potential for abuse and a low risk of addiction.

Schedule V

Schedule V substances are classified as drugs with a lower abuse potential than Schedule IV substances, which contain limited amounts of certain narcotics. Cough syrups with less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC), Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, and Parepectolin, among others, are examples of Schedule V substances. They are typically used to relieve diarrhea, coughs, and pain.

Recovery With Nova

At Nova Recovery Center, Houston we provide our patients with a very comfortable detox process, where medical professionals provide monitoring and care around the clock. You will be provided with all the medications you need to combat the withdrawal symptoms. You will then be enrolled in the in-patient recovery program where you’ll learn to stay away from drugs, through counseling, group therapy, and so on.

Nova Recovery Center commits to helping you overcome your addiction so you can get back to what is most important to you. If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction, Nova Recovery Center can provide support. We have locations in Austin, Houston, and Wimberley Texas. Call today to begin your journey in recovery at (888) 428-1501.

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