You may have heard about prescription or illicit drugs being given certain classifications like “Schedule I,” “Schedule II,” or “Schedule III,” but you may not have been sure exactly what those terms meant. Understanding what drug classifications mean can help when figuring out how to deal with people who are struggling with drug addiction. Knowing how a specific drug is classified can help you determine how difficult it will be to help that person get off of that drug.
What Are Drug Classifications?
Drug scheduling and classifications have been a part of the illicit drug and prescription drug landscape in the United States since the 1970s. On October 27, 1970, then-President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) into law. This act was developed to go alongside Nixon’s war on drugs. It gave the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) the power and control to determine which substances were approved for medical use, which drugs served no medical purpose, and which drugs had the propensity for abuse. The CSA was the latest in a long line of policies that the United States created to deal with the management and control of addictive substances.
With this drug classification system, the government regulates the distribution, possession, and creation of both illicit and illegal substances. These substances are called “controlled substances,” and they can refer to anything from hard street drugs to legal prescription medications. The one thing linking all of these drugs together is that they have the potential for abuse.
The point of the CSA was to determine which substances would be considered controlled and which wouldn’t. Not only was the government able to then regulate these controlled substances, but they were also able to manage how law enforcement could respond to possession or distribution of them. People who possess controlled substances fall under state legislation and laws, but people who distribute controlled substances are under the authority of federal courts. This is the reason that possession of controlled substances varies state by state when it comes to punishment and penalties.
The CSA was the latest in a long line of U.S. policies that were enacted to deal with addictive substances. The very first act was the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. The Act required drug manufacturers and food distributors to clearly mark which foods contain dangerous substances, including ones like morphine, cannabis, alcohol, and morphine.
What Are the Classifications Based On?
The classifications are broken out based on what the DEA considers the level of dangerousness. There are five schedules ranging from Schedule I to Schedule V.
The DEA intends law enforcement officials and medical professionals to use these classifications to determine a drug’s legality, whether it’s okay for medical use, and the drug’s propensity for abuse. Since the classifications are straight and to the point, it’s easy for the legal system to make judgments based on which classification a drug falls into when dealing with criminal drug cases. It’s easy for medical professionals and experts to figure out how to handle a specific substance or prescribe it.
How Does the DEA Initiate a Schedule?
When it’s time for the DEA to classify a new drug, it first determines whether the drug can be abused. The DEA generally defines abuse as what happens when people take a substance recreationally that ends up creating potential health issues for them or puts the society as a whole at risk. If the answer is yes, the DEA will put it on to a schedule. If the answer is no, the drug won’t be included on any schedule.
The DEA will then determine where the drug goes on the schedule based on if it provides any medical benefits. When measuring a drug’s medical value, the company that created the drug must have done large-scale clinical trials to back up any claims.
What Are the Individual Classifications?
The following covers the five classifications and their meanings.
Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous drugs on the market by the DEA. After the DEA and the FDA analyze them, they determine that these drugs have no medical use. These types of drugs carry an extremely high risk and potential for addiction and abuse.
Some of the drugs on the Schedule I list include bath salts, heroin, ecstasy, LSD, Quaaludes, and marijuana. The inclusion of marijuana is explained below.
Schedule II Drugs
The FDA and the DEA have determined that Schedule II drugs also have a high potential for addiction and abuse. What makes them different from Schedule I drugs is that these drugs have been okayed as being acceptable for medical use. These drugs are usually used for things like treating severe pain or helping people get over addiction. These are the types of drugs that you can get with a doctor’s prescription, but it’s still possible to become addicted to them. Some of the drugs on this list include codeine, morphine, OxyContin, fentanyl, Demerol, and methadone.
Some people may be surprised to find out that cocaine is a Schedule II drug. Although it is generally known as a drug taken for illicit use only, it does have licit uses. Cocaine hydrochloride 4% and 10% can be used as a topical local anesthetic for issues with the upper respiratory tract. It helps reduce bleeding of the mucous membranes located in the nose, throat, and mouth. It’s not used often, but it is an option in certain medical cases.
Schedule III Drugs
Schedule III drugs are determined by the DEA to be drugs that have a moderate potential for abuse, meaning that they’ve determined that there is a low to moderate potential for people to become physically and psychologically dependent on them. Although people can become addicted to these drugs, they are considered by these two organizations to be less dangerous than Schedule II drugs. You have to get a prescription for these drugs.
Schedule IV drugs
Schedule IV drugs are drugs that have been approved for medical use, but there’s still a potential for abuse. They do consider that the potential for abuse for these drugs is lower than drugs higher up on the scale, but it is still there. These types of drugs are considered easy to misuse or become addicted to. This is especially true if they’re mixed with other substances or they’re taken off-script. Some of the drugs on this list include Ativan, Klonopin, Soma, Xanax, and Valium.
Schedule V drugs
Schedule V drugs are the drugs that the DEA has considered the least dangerous on the list. In spite of them having the least danger, these drugs are still considered to have some potential for abuse. These types of substances are usually manufactured by adding a tiny bit of narcotic into them. This would include medicines like cough syrup filled with codeine. In spite of these being the “least dangerous” drugs on the list, they still have the potential for abuse, and people need to be careful. If they’re not, they could become physically or psychologically dependent on the drug. Examples of Schedule V drugs include Robitussin AC, Ezogabine, and Phenergan with codeine.
Why Is Marijuana Considered a Schedule I Drug?
Many people are confused about the fact that marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous drugs by the DEA, and it’s been determined that they have no medicinal value or properties, yet states around the country are legalizing marijuana left and right. It’s a little difficult for people to understand how both things can be true.
It’s important to realize that the CSA was created at a time in history when the United States was struggling with heavy drug use among its populace. Lots of people in the 70s were freely taking drugs like mushrooms, psychedelics, and cocaine. Much of the more conservative parts of the country were hellbent on reigning in what many of them described as an out-of-control drug culture. Marijuana, used by many people at that time, was considered a dangerous drug. That perception remains today in some pockets of the country.
Another issue was that because access to marijuana was strictly limited, it was more difficult to research the drug. This, in turn, made it difficult for researchers to prove its medical value. This is the reason that many medical and advocacy groups have said that marijuana’s inclusion as a Schedule I drug is out of step with reality.
Issues With How Drug Schedules Affect People Struggling With Addiction Issues
The problem that addicts face is that if they’re caught in possession of certain controlled substances, they could end up facing hard time in addition to having to deal with the difficulties of addiction and withdrawal. People who are addicted to controlled substances often have a lot of the substances on their person, so if they’re caught with what is considered a distributable amount, they could be in serious trouble.
The most important thing is for people struggling with addiction to controlled substances to do is to seek help. The ultimate goal is to make sure that they are able to restore their lives to one that is drug-free, physically healthy, and emotionally healthy. This is where we come in.
How We Can Help
At Granite Recovery Centers, our goal is to help people overcome their addictions to controlled substances. We understand exactly how difficult it is to wean one’s body off of the drugs upon which they’ve become dependent. The very reason that those drugs exist on the drug schedules list is that they’re so easy to abuse.
We help people withdraw from everything from Schedule I to Schedule V drugs. The schedule level of the drug being used may differ from person to person, but the effects on the body are all too real to the individual dealing with the addiction. A person suffering from an addiction to cough syrup struggles with some of the same issues as someone dealing with an addiction to heroin.
Our first goal will be to determine exactly what drug the client needs help with. Our methods for detox and rehab will differ depending on the type of drug our clients are addicted to, as well as their physical and emotional state at the time of admission. Getting rid of an addiction is not simply clearing up a physical dependency. It’s also getting rid of the emotional baggage that created the addiction in the first place.
The next step of the process is detox. The detox process for someone withdrawing from a stimulant like cocaine will be different from the detox process for someone withdrawing from an opioid like heroin or morphine.
People who are addicted to strong opioids or stimulants must go through medically assisted treatment programs, called MATs. At Granite Recovery Centers, we believe in using MATs to help our clients withdraw from drugs in as comfortable a way as possible. Many controlled substances are extremely difficult to withdraw from, causing people to relapse. With MATs, we’re able to provide the clients with medicines that can help the withdrawal process feel a lot less painful and more manageable. These medicines control the symptoms so that our clients can focus on healing their emotional scars without being distracted by the physical ones. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
We offer both inpatient and intensive outpatient programs, allowing people to choose the one that best fits their circumstances. People who are withdrawing from extremely difficult substances may benefit from being on-site for at least a portion of the withdrawal process so that they can be monitored by medical professionals.
Many people think that the hardest part of going through rehabilitation and recovery is the withdrawal process, but sometimes the hardest work begins once the drug has left the body. People will then have to encounter and confront the issues that brought them into addiction in the first place. We offer therapies both traditional and holistic to help our clients get to the root of their issues and learn better coping mechanisms.