Controlled Substances and Illegal Drugs

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Controlled substances and illegal drugs encompass both prescription medications and illicit street drugs. The term is used to describe any substance that has the potential to be abused. Whether these drugs are made in pharmaceutical settings or in illegal operations, it is never legal to use controlled substances in a way other than they are prescribed, or for non-medical reasons.

Examples of controlled prescription medications include benzodiazepenes like Xanax® and opioids like oxycodone. These have legitimate medical value, but are often abused and can lead to dependency. On the other hand, "street drugs" such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are deemed to have little or no legitimate medical value and are illegal in most situations. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration oversees the legal distribution of drugs and the Drug Enforcement Agency enforces the laws pertaining to controlled substances.[1]


Flickr: DraconianRain
Controlled Substance Schedules I to V, with V having the lowest abuse potential[2]
Youth usage Illegal drug use on the decline, prescription drug abuse steady[3]
Most commonly used illegal drug Marijuana
Drug related deaths Highest among those aged 30 to 39[4]
U.S. drug treatment locator 800-662-HELP
Disclaimer >The information provided by Pharmacy Drug Guide 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 Susan MacDowell


Schedules of Controlled Substances in the U.S.

Controlled substances are divided into five categories that are used to determine regulations and penalties: Schedule I, II, III, IV, and V. The schedule is determined by a drug's potential for abuse, whether there is an acceptable medical use, and safety concerns. Schedule I drugs have no accepted medical use and high abuse potential; Schedule V drugs are prescriptions with relatively low abuse potential.[2]

Commonly Used Controlled Substances

Commonly abused drugs include "club" drugs such as GHB, ketamine and rohypnol, cocaine, ecstasy, hallucinogens such as LSD, peyote, psilocybin and PCP, heroin, inhalants, marijuana, Methamphetamine, and various prescription and over-the-counter medications. In 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency seized 29,179 kilograms of cocaine, 690 kilograms of heroin, 722,476 kilograms of marijuana, 2,067 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 2,578,935 doses of hallucinogens.[5]

Illegal Drug Use in the U.S.

Drug Abuse Graph.jpg

History of Controlled Substances

Drugs have been used to relieve pain and alter mental states for millennia without regulation. At the beginning of the 20th century, American law enforcement began addressing drugs such as cocaine, morphine, and heroin. In its early stages, this trend included the criminalization of alcoholic beverages, which lasted from 1920 until 1933 under the 18th amendment to the constitution of the United States.[6]

As drug use rose in the 1960s, additional laws were introduced. The DEA was founded to enforce federal drug laws in 1973. According to the DEA, enforcement is more difficult now that control of the drug trade has migrated from U.S. organized crime groups to foreign criminal organizations.[7]

The Growth of Prescription Drug Abuse

According to the National Institutes of Health, 20 percent of Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.[8] The Centers for Disease Control has classified the spread of prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. In a 2009 report commissioned by the CDC, one-third of drug abusers aged 12 and over began their drug misuse by taking prescription drugs for reasons unrelated to medical care.

A 2010 report stated that prescription drug use for non-medical purposes quadrupled between 1998 and 2008. This increase in use was reported in all sections of the United States and among all races, ages, genders, and ethnicities. The report concluded that the non-medical use of prescription pain-relievers is now the second most common form of illegal drug use in the U.S.[9]

About Prescription Drug Abuse

Details about prescription drug abuse


Also see: Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, Marijuana Side Effects, Prescription Drugs, Cocaine, Oxycontin Side Effects, Ecstasy, Rohypnol, Drug Addiction Treatment, GHB, Vicodin Side Effects, Heroin, Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment, Ketamine, Xanax Addiction Treatment



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