What are drug schedules?

December 21, 2020
What are drug schedules?

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, drugs and other substances are separated into five categories, also known as schedules. Schedules are determined based on a few factors, such as the medical application of the substance and its abuse potential. 

Drug schedules range from I to V, with I being the most severe and V being the least. Because sentencing and penalties are often based on the schedule of the drug involved in a criminal charge, it is important to understand the differences between them. 

Schedule I

Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, marijuana, ecstasy, and others. These drugs are considered to have a high possibility of abuse and dependence. They are also not considered to have any medically accepted uses. 

Schedule II

While schedule II drugs are also considered to have a high possibility of abuse and dependence, these drugs are sometimes used medically. They include cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription medications, such as Adderall, fentanyl, Vicodin, methadone, and Dilaudid, which is a powerful painkiller often used in hospital settings. 

Schedule III

Ketamine, codeine, and anabolic steroids are classed as schedule III drugs. Although these drugs do carry a risk of dependence, which can be both psychological and physical, their risk is considered low to moderate in comparison to schedule I and II drugs. 

Schedule VI

Many schedule VI drugs have applications as anti-anxiety or sleep medications. They include Ambien, Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Tramadol. While used for medical purposes, using, carrying, or distributing these drugs without a prescription is illegal. 

Schedule V

Schedule V drugs have the lowest abuse and dependence potential. Over the counter cough medications, treatments for nerve pain, and gastrointestinal medications fall into this category. 


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