The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies chemicals used to make drugs, and substances into five categories based on their medical use and its potential for drug abuse. The factor that determines which scheduling category a drug will be placed is the rate of abuse. For example substances, which fall under scheduling, they are rated as the most dangerous drugs and lead to drug abuse. As the list goes on, the potential of the drug leading to abuse reduces. The list and scheduling of drugs is contained in the 1970 Controlled Substance Act (CSA).
The CSA is a combination of all the preexisting federal laws on drugs. It is used by federal agents such as the DEA to regulate the manufacturing and distribution of controlled substances. According to Clear (2010), the classification of drugs in this act enables legislators in various states to come up with criminal statutes. Furthermore, a drug can be added or removed from a schedule rather than come up with a new drug law (Clear, 2010).
Although the CSA has attempted to address the issue of drugs by classifying them according to the level of harm it can cause, the schedules do not include alcohol or tobacco yet research has shown that these are drugs have severe effects if abused. In fact, some of the drugs listed in schedule I are less harmful compared to alcohol or tobacco (Nutt et al., 2010). Therefore, there is a need to revise these lists.
These are chemicals, drugs, or substances, which are not used chemically and have a high rate of dependency or abuse. They are considered the most dangerous among all the categories of drugs and lead to bad side effects from its abuse. Examples of these drugs are heroin, peyote, marijuana, and ecstasy.
These are drugs, chemicals, or substances, which can easily be abused and lead to dependency. However, schedule I drugs and chemicals are more lethal. Examples of these drugs are OxyContin, Cocaine, Fentanyl, Adderall among others (Clear, 2010).
These are drugs or substances that have a lower potential for abuse than schedule I and II. They are also used for medical use. The use of these drugs or substances can lead to a reduced physical dependency or a high rate of psychological dependency. Examples of these drugs are anabolic steroids, ergine, marinol, ketamine among others (Nutt et al., 2010).
These are drugs or substances that are least likely to cause dependency on those who use these drugs compared to those in schedule III. In the United States, these drugs are primarily used as medicine to treat various diseases. Those who are prescribed these drugs can refill them in the course of six months five times. Prescriptions issued by medical practitioners that fall under schedules III, IV or V can be obtained by word of mouth, a doctor’s note or by facsimile. These drugs are tramadol, carisoprodol, chloral hydrate among others (Clear, 2010).
These drugs have a lower capacity to cause drug abuse than schedule IV. Small quantities of narcotics are found in these drugs. They are normally used for analgesic, anti-diarrheal and anti-tussive purposes. Examples of these drugs are Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectoline and cough medication which contains codeine in small quantity.
Schedule I contain drugs, chemical substances that very addictive and lack any medicinal use. The possession and distribution of these drugs is considered a criminal act. Examples of these drugs are heroin, LSD, mescaline and PCP (Nutt et al., 2010).
These drugs are used for medicinal use but are highly addictive and cause psychological harm. These drugs require a prescription from the doctor before they are issued to the patient. Examples of these drugs are Vicodin, Cocaine, Meperidine, Dexedrine etc.
Marijuana also falls in this category. It has been moved to this category because it has been recognized for its medicinal use especially in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. In addition, it has lees potential to cause harm (Nutt et al., 2010).
Research has shown that cannabis can be used in chemotherapy to curb some of its effects such as vomiting and nausea. It can also be used to treat stiff muscles and pain caused by ailments such as rheumatism. Scientific research has also shown that it can be used to reduce the effects of AIDS.
These are substances that are used for medical purposes but if abused can lead to dependency. Phenobarbitone and midazolam are examples of these drugs.
These drugs do not require prescription for use. They are subject to light regulation with no possession offence. They are divided into two main categories benzodiazepines and anabolic plus androgenic steroids.
These are substances that can be bought in pharmacies without prescriptions and there is less chance of abuse. Examples of these drugs are medicinal opium, lacosamide, difenoxin and pyrovalerone.
In this category, the substances or drugs are used for recreational purposes but are prohibited for persons under the age of 21. If these drugs are abused, they are detrimental to one’s health and can ultimately lead to death. Examples of these substances are alcohol and tobacco.
Excessive consumption of alcohol causes chronic diseases, neurological and social problems. Alcohol is harmful to women who are pregnant since it can cause miscarriages and stillbirth. For people under the influence of alcohol, they are prone to cause accidents or get involved in unintentional injuries.
Tobacco is contains nicotine which is very addictive to those who use its products. Tobacco causes lung and oral cancer. Smoking tobacco has been found to lead to heart attacks, strokes, and hypertension. Smoking is harmful to pregnant women as it causes miscarriages or fetal problems such as premature birth. Smoking can also cause erectile dysfunction.
The updated drug scheduling has put into consideration all the recommendations that various research organizations had leveled against it. Based on the testing of the drugs included in the list of scheduling for research purposes, it was found that many of the drugs classified under schedule 1 had various medicinal use and low potential for drug abuse. This contradicts the requirement of that the drug listed in that category should have a high potential for abuse and is not used for any medical purposes. A good example of this is marijuana, which has been used for medical use in ailments such as multiple sclerosis and has been legalized in more than 20 states. In addition, alcohol and tobacco are not included in the drug scheduling yet they present more harmful effects of its use if abused.
Allan Clear. (2010). Real Change or Changing Rhetoric? Monitoring the Shift in U.S. Drug Policy. Huffington Post.
Congressional Research Service. State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues.
Report of the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, September 10, 1970
Nutt, David J, King, Leslie A, & Phillips, Lawrence D. (2010). Drug harms in the UK: A multi- criteria decision analysis. The Lancet, 376(9752), 1558-1565.
United States Government Accountability Office, Office of National Drug Control Policy: Journal of Office Could Better Identify Opportunities to Increase Program Coordination (2013)