Category:Illegal Drugs and Controlled Substances

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A controlled substance is defined as a drug or chemical whose use, production and sales are regulated by government agencies. In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces drug laws. While illegal drugs such as marijuana and methamphetamine do fall under the category of controlled substances, so do any prescription medications that have even a slight potential for abuse. These medications are legal to use so long as the user has a prescription from a qualified physician. Controlled substances are categorized according to schedules, which reflect both their potential for abuse and their approved medicinal use. Schedule I drugs are all "street drugs" with no medical equivalents, while Schedule V drugs are typically pain relievers, cough suppressants and antidiarrheal agents with low abuse potential.[1]

Experts say prescription drug abuse is continuing to rise. Abuse of prescription medications occurs when people use them for reasons other than their intended purpose, or do not take them as instructed by a qualified doctor. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 52 million Americans over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs for reasons other than their therapeutic purposes. This equals roughly 20% of the population.[2]


Drug Abuse
FDA Hotline 800-332-1088
Disclaimer The information provided by is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Do not take any action based on the information on this page without consulting a physician.
Author Hugh Shiebler


Controlled Substance Classification

The U.S Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration places all controlled substances, including illegal drugs, into one of five categories, called schedules:

  • Schedule I controlled substances: There are two factors that qualify a drug as a schedule I substance--it must have no legally accepted medical use, and it must have a high potential for abuse. Marijuana falls under this category, as even though medical marijuana is sanctioned by some states, the federal government does not allow prescriptions.
  • Schedule II controlled substances: These drugs can cause major psychological or physical dependence, but have some approved medical uses.
  • Schedule III controlled substances: These have a lower risk of major psychological or physical dependence, and are used as medicines in FDA-approved forms.
  • Schedule IV controlled substances: These substances have a somewhat lower risk of abuse and dependency than higher schedules.
  • Schedule V controlled substances: Substances in this category have the lowest potential for abuse, and contain minimal levels of narcotics.[1]

About Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse

Illegal Drug Abuse

Approximately 12.8 million Americans, roughly six percent of the population above the age of 12, have used one or more illegal drugs within the past month. This number shows a drop of nearly 50 percent from the 1979 figure of twenty-five million--the highest recorded in the country. Despite the decline in illegal drug use, over a third of all Americans twelve and older have experimented with some type of illicit drug. Of this group, ninety percent have tried marijuana or marijuana concentrates, while about a third have taken cocaine or consumed a prescription drug for non-medical reasons. About a fifth have experimented with LSD.[3]

Prescription Drug Dangers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people have died from prescription painkiller overdoses that cocaine or heroin combined since 2003. For each of those painkiller overdoses, nine more patients end up in rehab for substance abuse, and 35 end up in emergency rooms.[4]

Adderall®, a central nervous system stimulant and amphetamine, is another drug that is increasingly being abused. Prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Adderall® elevates blood pressure and heart rate, and large quantities can cause users to overheat or experience cardiac arrest due to irregular heartbeat. In 2007, the FDA requested that ADHD drugs change their labeling to reflect the cardiovascular risks.[5]

Other prescriptions that pose health risks when abused include depressants such as Ambien® and Xanax®, which depress breathing, and anabolic steroids such as Androgel® and Winstrol®. which cause cancer, heart attack, tumors, infertility and more.[5]

According to a survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one in four teenagers who have been prescribed medications for health conditions have been approached by other students hoping to obtain some of their drugs for recreational use.[5]




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Pages in category "Illegal Drugs and Controlled Substances"

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