A controlled substance is a drug that the DEA regulates to ensure safety, facilitate medical use, and prevent misuse within legal guidelines.

The Controlled Substances Act was established in 1970 and categorizes drugs into five classes, known as Schedules, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) oversees.

This system aims to balance a substance’s medical benefits and the risks of misuse and harm, providing guidance for law enforcement, healthcare, and policymakers.

In the United States, Schedule 1 drugs are substances classified as having a high potential for misuse, no current medical use, and a lack of safety even under medical supervision.

As a result, medical professionals do not generally prescribe Schedule 1 drugs.

Here are some common Schedule 1 substances:

  • Heroin: A highly addictive opioid drug derived from morphine, causing a rapid onset of euphoria followed by sedation.
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide): A powerful hallucinogenic drug that alters perception and mood.
  • MDMA (ecstasy): A synthetic drug known for its stimulant and hallucinogenic properties, often used recreationally in social settings.
  • Peyote: A small cactus containing psychoactive alkaloids, traditionally used in certain religious ceremonies.
  • Methaqualone: A sedative-hypnotic drug that gained popularity as a recreational drug, leading to its classification as a controlled substance.
  • Psilocybin-containing mushrooms: Psychedelic mushrooms containing psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound. Some states have decriminalized or authorized medical use, creating a disconnect between state and federal classifications.
  • Cannabis (marijuana): While it is legal for medical or recreational use in some states, it remains a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level, creating a regulatory inconsistency. The federal government is currently reviewing whether to reclassify it.

Schedule 2 and Schedule 2N substances in the United States are drugs considered to have a high potential for misuse but with acknowledged medical uses under strict regulation.

Medical professionals can prescribe these drugs, but there are strict regulations in place to monitor their distribution and use. Schedule 2 drugs have the tightest regulations compared with other prescription drugs.

Here are some common Schedule 2 narcotics:

  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid): A potent opioid analgesic for the management of severe pain.
  • Methadone (Dolophine): An opioid used for pain relief. In controlled settings, it is used for the treatment of opioid addiction.
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet): A powerful opioid prescribed for the management of severe pain.
  • Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Duragesic): A synthetic opioid, much more potent than morphine, often used for severe pain management.
  • Morphine: An opioid analgesic for pain relief that comes from the opium poppy.
  • Opium: A substance derived from the opium poppy, used for pain relief.
  • Codeine: An opioid analgesic often used for mild to moderate pain.
  • Hydrocodone: An opioid doctors commonly prescribe for pain management.

Here are some common schedule 2N stimulants:

  • Amphetamine (Dexedrine, Adderall): A stimulant medication for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
  • Methamphetamine (Desoxyn): A central nervous system stimulant that treats ADHD and obesity.
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin): A stimulant for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.

Schedule 3 substances in the United States are considered to have a lower potential for abuse compared with Schedule 1 and 2 drugs. They have accepted medical uses and a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

Here are some common Schedule 3 narcotics:

  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone): Buprenorphine is a medication that treats opioid dependence. It can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Products containing no more than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with Codeine): These are combination medications containing codeine, a mild opioid analgesic, and are used for pain relief.

Here are some common schedule 3N stimulants:

  • Benzphetamine (Didrex): Benzphetamine is a sympathomimetic amine, and it’s used as an appetite suppressant for weight loss.
  • Phendimetrazine: Phendimetrazine is another sympathomimetic amine doctors prescribe for weight loss to suppress appetite.
  • Ketamine: Ketamine is an anesthetic that also has dissociative and analgesic effects. It has both medical and recreational uses.
  • Anabolic steroids such as depo-testosterone: Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. They’re used medically for hormone replacement therapy and illegally for performance enhancement in sports.

Schedule 4 drugs in the United States are substances with a lower potential for misuse compared to those in Schedules 1–3. They have a currently accepted medical use and a lower risk of physical or psychological dependence than Schedule 3 drugs.

Here are some common examples:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax): A benzodiazepine that treats anxiety and panic disorders.
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin): Another benzodiazepine doctors prescribe for seizure disorders and panic disorder.
  • Diazepam (Valium): A benzodiazepine with various medical uses, including anxiety and muscle spasms.
  • Zolpidem (Ambien): A sedative-hypnotic medication primarily used for the short-term treatment of insomnia.
  • Modafinil: A medication to treat narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. It promotes wakefulness.
  • Tramadol: A centrally-acting opioid analgesic used for pain relief.
  • Carisoprodol (Soma): A muscle relaxant for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain.

Schedule 5 drugs in the United States are substances with a lower potential for misuse compared with those in Schedules 1–4. They have a currently accepted medical use and contain limited quantities of certain narcotics.

Here are some common examples:

  • Cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters or per 100 grams (e.g., Robitussin AC): A medication for cough suppression.
  • Pregabalin (Lyrica): An anticonvulsant and neuropathic pain medication.
  • Ezogabine (Potiga): An anticonvulsant used to treat epilepsy.

Federal and state drug laws coexist in the United States, creating a complex legal landscape. The federal government, through agencies like the DEA, classifies drugs into schedules based on their potential for misuse, medical use, and safety. However, states also have the authority to regulate and classify drugs, leading to instances where state and federal classifications may differ.

When federal and state drug classifications disagree, it can lead to legal conflicts. Cannabis is a well-known example of this disparity. While some states have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use, it remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance at the federal level.

This creates a situation where individuals and businesses operating legally under state law may still face federal legal consequences.

Aside from cannabis, there are other substances where state and federal drug classifications may differ. One example is certain psychedelics, such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Some states have decriminalized or authorized the medical use of these substances, while they remain Schedule 1 controlled substances at the federal level.

Some states have also implemented harm reduction measures, such as supervised injection sites or needle exchange programs, for substances like heroin or other opioids. These practices have been shown to be highly effective in preventing disease but may conflict with federal drug laws, which maintain a more punitive approach.

The classification of drugs into different schedules is determined by various factors, including their perceived potential for misuse, medical utility, and safety.

The criteria for scheduling may not always align with public health outcomes, and there is ongoing debate about the appropriateness of certain classifications.

Public opinion and medical research may influence changes in drug scheduling over time.

You can refer to official government sources for detailed and up-to-date information about scheduled drugs. The DEA website in the United States is a primary resource. In addition, here is a list of controlled substances.