The Controlled Substances Act places every drug in a schedule based on its medical value and its potential for abuse. The Federal Government has generally delegated this enforcement to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA inquires first if a medication can be abused to start a schedule. If it is valid, it is put in a timeline. If not, the drug will be discarded. The therapeutic benefit of the drug and its comparative misuse risk is then measured to assess its level.

Nevertheless, medications have not always been timetabled and regulated. The Controlled Substances Act, the FDA, and the DEA were granted the authority to determine which substances were and are currently not fit for medical use, but only since the 1970s.

The medications, compounds, and other substances in medication manufacturing are to be categorized into five (5) separate categories depending on the appropriate therapeutic use of the drug and the potential risk for abuse or dependence. Such lists are meant as general guides and do not include detailed descriptions of all drugs regulated.

Schedule I

Schedule I medications, chemicals, and substances are classified as medicines that are not generally approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for medicinal use and have great potential for addiction and misuse. This classification is the most harmful of all, running high risks for severe mental and physical dependence.

The therapeutic uses of these drugs are not validated and have an extremely high potential for abuse.

Schedule 1 (I) medication examples: 

  • Heroin
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Marijuana (cannabis)
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy)
  • Peyote
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyric

Schedule 2 (II) Drugs

Schedule II drugs have a high misuse potential with or without known dependence to develop, yet these medications have accepted clinician use. Examples of schedule II drugs are cocaine, morphine, codeine, hydromorphone, methadone, fentanyl.

Schedule 2(II) is classified as medications with strong abuse potential, lower abuse potentials when compared to those of Schedule 1(I) with potential psychological or physical dependence. These kinds of drugs are most often see as extremely harmful.

While these have a a high potential for abuse, it was approved as a medical purpose in certain instances. Most of these medicines have rigorous medical guidelines.

These kinds of drugs are not often used medicinally, but they have been used as such in the past. In Schedule II, the drug types are as follows:

  • Mixing goods with a treatment level of less than 15 mg of hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Methadone
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) 
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin) 
  • Fentanyl 
  • Dexedrine 
  • Adderall
  • Ritalin

Schedule 3 (III) Drugs

Medications, substances, and chemicals with medium to low physical and psychological dependency are classified as Schedule three (III) drugs. The potential for abuse of these drugs is less than that of Schedule 1(I) and Schedule 2(II), but higher than that of Schedule 4(IV). Substances in this category often have lower chances for mental and physical dependence. 

Some of the drugs in this category are anabolic steroids and testosterone. Codeine is another Schedule III drug with addictive and poisoning properties that have been commonly abused. Buprenorphine and ketamine are other examples.

Substances under this title are less likely to be abused than in Schedules I and II and misuse can result in a medium to low physical dependence.

The DEA finds such medications to be approved for healthcare and to have less potential for abuse than the medicines specified under Schedule I or II.

Examples of Drugs:

  • Combination products with hydrocodone per dosing unit of less than 15 mg (Vicodin)
  • Ingredients of less than 90 mg codeine (Tylenol with codeine) per unit dose
  • Ketamine
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Testosterone

Schedule 4 (IV) Drugs

Schedule 4 (IV) is defined as drugs with low abuse potential and a low dependence risk.

Types of medicines given under Schedule 4 (IV):

Schedule IV medications are known to have some potential for misuse but are less dangerous than Schedule III products. Clonazepam, Diazepam, Midazolam, Phenobarbital & Tramadol are examples.

Other types of drug are:

  • Xanax
  • Soma
  • Darvon
  • Darvocet
  • Valium
  • Ativan
  • Talwin
  • Ambien

Schedule 5 (V) Drugs

The misuse risk of these drugs was lowest under the DEA. Control drugs for disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia are also classified under Schedule V. Robitussin AC, a very weak codeine suppressant is also this type of substance.

Schedule V drugs have the lowest potential for misuse and development of addiction; examples of such are pregabalin, diphenoxylate/atropine, and promethazine.

Schedule 5 (V) medicines, chemicals, and products, which consist of formulations comprising limited quantities of certain medications, are classified as drugs with a lower potential for abuse than 4 (IV). The main uses of Schedule 5 (V) medicines include antidiarrheal, antifungal, and analgesic.

Examples of Drugs:

  • Preparations for a cough with less than 200 mg of codeine or 100 ml (Robitussin AC)
  • Lomotil
  • Motofen
  • Lyrica
  • Parepectolin​

The DEA puts these guidelines in for drug classification so that not all substances are put under the same roof. Drugs like Xanax have legitimate medical use but has some potential for abuse. Other drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine have very little medical legitimacy and can only increase a person’s chances of developing an addiction. We hope this list has helped you better understand drug classifications and why we separate them as such. 

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