The 5 Types Of Controlled Substances

Whether natural or synthetic, there is an astounding array of chemical substances obtainable in the United States. While we can go and buy Ibuprofen and Tylenol over the counter without a single question, a vast majority of medications and chemical substances are controlled. As outline by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there are 5 types, or schedules, of controlled substances. Depending on the controlled substance’s schedule, the more or less the government and law enforcement controls the substance. 

The Reason for Controlled Substances

In America, a land of free will, why would we regulate the use of a particular substance? Well, there are a number of reasons the DEA considers:

  • Is there a medical application?
  • Is the drug safe?
  • Does the substance carry a risk of abuse?
  • Does the substance carry a risk of physical or psychological dependence?

Essentially, when determining whether a substance needs to be controlled and what schedule to categorize the drug into, the DEA looks at what the potential benefits are that the substance can offer compared to the potential risks if the substance is accessible to the public. 

Some substances such as morphine and fentanyl are extremely beneficial in treating cases of extreme pain, but also carry a high risk of abuse, dependence, and severe side effects. On the other end of the spectrum, codeine can be prescribed in low doses that carry a much lower potential for abuse and side effects. Even in low doses, codeine can help suppress a cough that if left untreated could lead to more severe health issues.

Controlled Substance Schedules

The schedules for controlled substances range from Schedule I to Schedule V. The lower the schedule, the greater the control is. This means that if someone is caught illicitly using, possessing, or selling a schedule 1 substance, the consequences will generally be greater than that of a schedule 5 substance. Now, we will provide a breakdown of the classifications for each schedule, as well as provide a few examples for each.

Schedule 1 Substances

Substances classified as schedule 1 are determined to have no medical use currently accepted in the United States. They are not accepted to be made, sold, or used even under medical supervision and carry a high possibility of abuse. Substances that fall under schedule 1 include:

Schedule 2 Substances

Medications that do have recognized medical uses, but also have a high potential for abuse and possible dependence (whether psychological or physical), are classified as schedule II substances.  Many narcotics and stimulants are classified as Schedule II substances, including:

  • Hydromorphone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine

Schedule 3 Substances

The only difference between Schedule II and III substances is that Schedule III substances have a lower potential for abuse and physical dependence. Schedule III substances include an array of narcotic and non-narcotic drugs such as:

  • Suboxone
  • Ketamine

Schedule 4 Substances

Substances classified as schedule IV supposedly have a low potential for abuse and dependence of any kind, particularly when compared to Schedule III substances. Examples include:

  • Alprazolam
  • Diazepam
  • Lorazepam

Schedule 5 Substances

Again, the potential for abuse of Schedule V substances is less than that of Schedule IV substances. Most commonly, substances that fall under Schedule V are those prepared in a manner that provides limited quantities of the substance. This includes low concentrations of:

Although some may argue that the way in which these substances are classified is subjective, the controlled substance schedule provides a guideline for regulating how these substances are manufactured, prescribed, and consumed in the United States. That’s right, it is just as much about the manufacturers and distributors of these substances as it is about the users. Controlled substances are understood to carry risk when used, and controlling them from every level is a safety measure to protect individuals in the United States. 

Despite the regulation of these substances, substance abuse and dependence is a daily struggle for millions of Americans. Accredited and licensed addiction treatment facilities work to fill the gap and help those who are struggling with addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling, don’t hesitate to get help today!

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