According to U.S. federal law, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) places substances under certain schedules. The schedules relate to the substances’ potential for abuse, medical use, and liability for dependency and safety.  The CSA has the right to provide information that may change the schedules, such as removing or adding schedules. Before any changes can be made, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or other interested parties need to initiate the process.

Some of the individuals or organizations that can petition for a change include a pharmacy association, a citizen, or the manufacturer of a particular drug. There are factors that can change a substance on a schedule or even remove it, especially if the drug

  • Has the potential for abuse.

  • Has a history of being abused.

  • Has a risk to public health.

There are different classes of drugs that are classified into five schedules. According to authorities, they range from being potentially abused substances to substances that are not abused at all.

Five Schedules of Drugs

Different classes of drugs depend on the abuse rate of the drugs themselves. Even drugs that are not considered potentially dangerous to be abused can still cause a person to be criminally prosecuted.

If the substance is used for human consumption or is considered similar to a drug in another schedule, it can be placed in another schedule. For example, cough medicine is a Schedule V drug, but if people abuse it and cause criminal issues, it can be considered a Schedule I or II drug.

Schedule I

These substances are not for medical use. According to authorities, they have a high potential to cause drug abuse. The types of drugs that fall into this category are heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana.

This schedule states that these types of drugs are highly addictive. A person may spend years in prison if caught with these drugs. Marijuana is legal in certain U.S. states, but only for medical use.

Schedule II

These substances are potentially dangerous because they can cause physical and psychological dependence. Many drugs in this category are prescription medications that are often illegally distributed. Some of these drugs include oxycodone and hydrocodone. Stimulants such as methamphetamine (meth) as well as Ritalin and Adderall are also in this schedule.

Another stimulant, cocaine, belongs to this category even though it is not a prescription drug. It is dangerous and causes dependency. As similar to Schedule I substances, you can go to prison if you are caught with Schedule II drugs illegally. Prescription drug bottles should have your name on them in order to use them legally.

Pharmacists have to follow procedures regarding Schedule II drugs. For example, they are only allowed to dispense a limited amount of prescription medication at one time. Sometimes, pharmacists are not allowed to refill prescriptions for Schedule II substances.

Schedule III

Schedule III substances have a low to moderate likelihood of causing physical or psychological abuse and dependency. Some drugs that fall into this schedule are codeine, especially when it is less than ninety milligrams, testosterone, and anabolic steroids.

People can still get in legal trouble if they misuse Schedule III drugs. Schedule III drugs are considered more dangerous than Schedule IV substances. If people are caught with this drug in their possession, there will be consequences. Different states have different rules on how they treat Schedule III substances.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, a person can face up to a year in jail and/or a fine to up to $5,000 for possessing a Schedule III substance. The state can remove your driver’s license each time you are caught with a substance in this category. Such legal trouble may make it difficult to obtain employment or federal aid for college.

Schedule IV

According to authorities, you are less likely to abuse Schedule IV substances or become dependent on them. Schedule IV substances include Xanax, Valium, and Ambien. People need prescriptions to use such drugs. If police catch a person with these substances illegally, the person may face a felony, misdemeanor, and/or a fine.

Sometimes dealers obtain prescription medications and distribute them illegally. For this reason, it is important to bring unused medications to pharmacies or other designated drop-off points to prevent anyone from obtaining and distributing drugs in the wrong way. Children may get into their parents’ medicine cabinets and distribute these drugs to their peers. When this happens, parents and children may both face legal problems.

Schedule V

Schedule V drugs have an even lower risk of causing dependency and abuse than Schedule IV drugs. Some examples of Schedule V substances are cough medicines with fewer than 200 milligrams of codeine and Lyrica. Many people who abuse or depend on these substances use them to help them sleep. If they do not have the medicine, they may experience insomnia.

It might be easy to spot people who abuse Schedule V drugs. For example, the same people may visit stores every day to buy the same substances, so the store employees may be able to warn other employees about signs of possible abuse. They may not sell the people the substances if they become aware of the problem. As with other schedules, criminal charges for misusing and distributing the substances vary by U. S. state. Some states may consider misusing Schedule V substances to be a misdemeanor and issue a fine as a punishment.

Why Is It Important to Know about Different Classes of Drugs?

It is important to know about different classes of drugs because drug abuse can become a public health issue. For instance, some people may make drugs and cause an explosion. There have been many instances where drug production and distribution has created health hazards for people and their particular neighborhoods.

Once the public is educated on different classes of drugs, they will know what to do if they happen to be around drugs or someone who is dealing with drugs. They can report their concerns to the proper authorities to remove the threats right away.