Controlled Substances Act and Scheduling

The Controlled Substances Act is a federal drug policy. The government controls which drugs are available over the counter, require a prescription or are considered illegal.

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    Understanding the Controlled Substances Act

    The federal government regulates the use of many drugs.The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is a law that regulates how drugs may be used, produced and sold in the United States. It applies to both legal and illegal substances.

    Both the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are granted power to classify substances under the CSA.

    The Controlled Substances Act outlines the drug scheduling system, which lays out five classes of drugs with different regulations for each class.

    The CSA places allowances and restrictions on drugs with regards to:

    • Possession
    • Manufacturing
    • Importation
    • Use
    • Distribution

    Alcohol and tobacco products are not regulated under the CSA.

    Drug Scheduling

    The DEA uses drug scheduling as a rating system to determine which drugs have a higher potential for abuse. The agency also uses scheduling to determine the charges brought upon those in possession of drugs.

    Schedule I Controlled Substances

    These substances have no defined medicinal purposes, have a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and have the highest potential for abuse.

    Schedule I drugs include:

    Schedule II Controlled Substances

    Although schedule II substances have a high potential for abuse, they have an accepted medical purpose in some circumstances. Most of these drugs have strict guidelines regarding their medicinal purposes.

    Schedule II drugs include:

    Schedule III Controlled Substances

    Drugs under this schedule are those with a moderate to low abuse potential (lower than Schedule I and II), a currently accepted medical use, a low to moderate potential for physical or psychological dependence. Anabolic steroids and testosterone are among the drugs that fall in this category. Codeine is one of the most commonly abused schedule III drugs with addictive and intoxicating qualities. Other examples include Buprenorphine and Ketamine.

    Schedule IV Controlled Substances

    These drugs are considered by the DEA to have an accepted medical use and a lower potential of abuse compared to Schedule III substances.

    Schedule IV drugs include:

    Schedule V Controlled Substances

    These substances have the lowest potential for abuse according to the DEA. Prescriptions to control conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia are among those considered schedule V. Robitussin AC, a cough suppressant with very low amounts of codeine, is also a schedule V substance.

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      Proposed Changes to the CSA

      Advocates of drug safety debate whether the CSA classifications actually prevent drug use. Opioid painkillers and marijuana are the most frequently discussed drugs in the CSA debate.

      Rescheduling Painkillers

      There are many people who advocate for either increasing or decreasing the schedule of painkillers. There are groups that are concerned about the powerfully addictive nature of painkillers and others concerned it may be too hard for people who need pain relief to get the drug.

      Advocates of increasing the schedule of drugs like hydrocodone often point to the epidemic of painkiller addictions and the rise in “pill mills” throughout the 2000’s.

      These advocates were successful in lobbying for hydrocodone to move from a schedule III to a schedule II substance in 2014.

      Rescheduling Marijuana

      There have been many attempts to remove marijuana’s schedule I status since the 1970s. Those advocating to reduce marijuana’s schedule level say that marijuana is not more dangerous than schedule II drugs like oxycodone. Additionally, schedule I drugs are considered to have no medical purpose and marijuana is used medicinally in some states.

      Despite the debates, it is important to recognize the addictive quality of marijuana.

      Although it’s often touted as a “non-habit forming” substance, marijuana can take a psychological hold over some people, similar to how some people develop food or gambling addictions.

      The CSA and Addiction Treatment

      Because the CSA designates some drugs as illegal, some people may not seek treatment for their addiction for fear of being arrested for possession. But having an addiction is not illegal. Getting treatment is the best way to turn your life around.

      If you have an addiction, there are people available to help you find a treatment center and discuss financial options. Call a treatment expert to get help.

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