What Are Drug Schedules?

What Are Drug Schedules?

Drugs are classified and differentiated in many different ways. For certain purposes, they may be placed into categories based on their effects. LSD and psilocybin, for example, are considered to be hallucinogens. Hallucinogens may be further broken down into the categories of psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants. This means of classification is useful in helping the public understand what a drug is used for. Similarly, drug schedules are different classifications that describe a drug’s abuse potential and safety.

Drug schedules were created under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970. There are five different schedules a drug may be placed into, indicated by Roman numeral numbers I through V. Drugs are placed into a schedule based on several different factors. These placements are often debated, and drugs may be added or moved from one schedule to another through a specific legal process. Currently, there is a debate on whether or not marijuana should be taken out of Schedule I, due to its increased acceptance for medical uses. The schedule a drug is placed into affects the prescription process as well as legal consequences of using a drug.

When you are given a prescribed medication, it is useful for you to understand the schedule that the drug falls into so that you can be aware of any potential risks.

Schedule I

Under the CSA, Schedule I drugs are those with a high potential for abuse and no current accepted medical use in the United States. They have a strong tendency to cause physical or psychological dependency when used. Because of these factors, most of the drugs in the Schedule I classification will never be prescribed for any medical purpose. Drugs assigned to Schedule I include dimethyltryptamine (DMT), heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, MDMA (“ecstasy”), mescaline, peyote, and psilocybin, among others.

Schedule II

Like Schedule I drugs, those in Schedule II have a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe physical or psychological dependence when used. However, these drugs have a current accepted medical use, though their use may involve severe restrictions. Some of the drugs in this schedule include cocaine, Ritalin, Adderall, methamphetamine, methadone, oxycodone, morphine, and pure hydrocodone or morphine.

Schedule III

Schedule III drugs have a moderate to lower potential for abuse than any of the prior categories, and typically have a moderate to low potential for physical or psychological dependence. Their medical use is considerably less restricted. Drugs in Schedule III include anabolic steroids, buprenorphine, ketamine, and Vicodin, among others.

Schedule IV

The drugs placed into the Schedule IV classification have a low potential for abuse and rarely lead to physical or psychological dependence. They are accepted for medical use in the United States with few restrictions. These drugs include benzodiazepines, long-acting barbiturates, and in some states, an analgesic called tramadol.

Schedule V

Schedule V drugs have a very low potential for abuse and dependence. They are accepted for medical use in the United States with little restriction. Though some of the drugs in this category contain addictive opioids, they have very limited quantities. Examples of Schedule V drugs include Lomotil, Robitussin AC, and Lyrica.

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