Medically reviewed by Neil Chatterjee, MD
Controlled substances are a group of prescription medications or illicit drugs that the government regulates due to their high potential for abuse and addiction. Prescription pharmaceutical controlled substances include opioids, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids.
In 1971, Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act, also known as the Federal Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, to improve the distribution and dispense of controlled substances. As a result, manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers must be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Controlled substances are traceable from the initial manufacturing process to the final dispensing process.
Controlled substances are categorized into five schedules based on their abuse potential, dependency potential, and how dangerous they are. The five classifications are rated based on several factors and years of research.
These are the most dangerous of all drugs. All the substances are illicit drugs not indicated for medicinal use except Marijuana, which is legal for recreational and medicinal use in some states. These drugs have a high potential for physical and psychological dependence and are easy to abuse.
These are a group of drugs that have a high addiction and abuse potential. Unlike Scheduled I drugs, these are all accepted and approved for medicinal use in the United States with several restrictions and limitations.
This group includes drugs with abuse and addiction potential, but less than Schedule I and II medications. These may lead to moderate to low physical and psychological dependence.
These medications have a lower abuse potential compared to those in Schedule III. Most of the benzodiazepines or sedatives are in this category. These medications are indicated in several diagnoses and are typically recommended for short-term use in most cases.
These are medications for low abuse and addiction risk compared to the drug categories mentioned above. Many of the cough suppressants with codeine are included in this group. These cough preparations in this group of medications contain no more than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters or per 100 grams.
If your physician prescribes you a controlled substance, there are many precautions that you need to take for your and your family’s safety. These are dangerous drugs that either have a high potential for abuse and addiction or come with significant physical and psychological consequences.
Have a question about opioids, benzos, stimulants, or other prescriptions? Ask away.