Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

An Overview of Drug Schedules in the USA

A variety of different pills mixed with kratom capsules.

Kratom may become a controlled substance in the United States in the coming years. And while there is still much the government has to do in order to schedule kratom, it’s vital to understand drug schedules. This way, we can see where kratom stands up to other drugs.

Compounds, drugs, medications—no matter what you call a specific substance, if it’s regulated by the US government, it falls into one of five drug schedules. A “scheduled” substance is known as a “controlled substance.” However, controlled substance schedules aren’t always bad, which is a common misconception.

Have you heard of diazepam? In 2018, over six million diazepam prescriptions were written to patients suffering from anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. This anxiolytic medication changes lives. It’s also a Schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970.

The Basics of the CSA

The CSA outlines the five controlled substance schedules. Compounds are given CSA schedules based on medical benefit, the potential for abuse, safety, and dependence liability. What do these terms mean, exactly?

  • Medical Benefit: Does this compound offer acceptable medical use?
  • Abuse Potential: Will users attempt to abuse this compound?
  • Safety: Is this compound safe for short-term and long-term use?
  • Dependence: Is there a risk of addiction in users of this compound?

After a substance is evaluated using these criteria, it enters one of the five drug schedules. Schedule I substances have a high potential for abuse and offer no acceptable medical use or therapeutic potential, at least in the eyes of the government. Schedule V substances are often safe with a low potential for abuse and dependence, offered as prescription drugs.

Different Controlled Substance Schedules

What is a Schedule I Controlled Substance?

Schedule I drugs supposedly possess no acceptable medical use, have a high potential for abuse, are not safe for clinical use, and may cause user dependency.

We say “supposedly” in this context because substances like marijuana and MDMA are considered Schedule I controlled substances, but medical research into both of these compounds has progressed rapidly in recent years.

According to the Schedule I designation of these compounds, however, it’s clear that the US government does not believe in the viability of these drugs.

Other Schedule I controlled substances include:

  • Heroin
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • MDPV (bath salts)
  • Methaqualone (Quaalude)
  • Psilocybin (mushrooms)
  • Synthetic marijuana (K2, spice)

What is a Schedule II Controlled Substance?

Schedule II drugs are similar to Schedule I compounds because they possess a high potential for abuse. These drugs also have high dependence liability but are known by the government to offer medical uses.

Schedule II drugs are often prescription drugs, some with moderate to severe side effects. Schedule II controlled substances include:

  • Adderall
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Methamphetamine
  • Morphine
  • Opium
  • Ritalin

You may be surprised to see methamphetamine in Schedule II. That’s a serious street drug, right? Well, believe it or not, there is a prescription drug version of methamphetamine. Named Desoxyn and FDA-approved, doctors prescribe it sparingly to treat ADHD and obesity.

Prescription drug facts aside, you can clearly see how controlled substance schedules are beginning to take shape. Schedule I compounds have no medical potential (at least in the government’s eyes), while Schedule II compounds are often prescribed to treat specific conditions, despite risks of dependency or side effects.

What is a Schedule III Controlled Substance?

Schedule III controlled substances possess moderate to low abuse potential and dependence liability. These compounds are less controlled than Schedule II prescription drugs but still require a prescription from your doctor.

Tylenol is NOT on any drug schedule, as it is not regulated or limited by the US government. However, if used in combination with less than 90mg of codeine per dose, Tylenol is considered a Schedule III compound.

Other Schedule III drugs include:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Ketamine
  • Suboxone
  • Testosterone
  • Vicodin

Schedule IV and V Controlled Substances

Everything else! Schedule IV and V controlled substances are quite similar. They offer a low potential for abuse, low dependence liability, and possess acceptable medical benefits.

Schedule IV controlled substances include:

  • Ambien
  • Ativan
  • Tramadol
  • Valium
  • Xanax

Schedule V controlled substances include:

  • Cough syrup formulations containing less than 200mg of codeine
  • Lomotil
  • Lyrica
  • Motofen
  • Parepectolin

Controlled Substance Scheduling: What It Means for Kratom

Where do you think kratom fits into these controlled substance schedules? Does it deserve to be regulated by the US government? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Some kratom advocates believe that kratom should remain forever unscheduled. This would allow for the most user accessibility. However, because kratom is currently unregulated by both the DEA (who handles CSA schedules) and the FDA (who regulates just about everything else we ingest), it is very easy for kratom scams to emerge.

Regulation isn’t always bad. In fact, with government regulation comes higher industry standards. Right now, third-party lab tests are the top way for kratom users to verify the composition of their kratom products. But not all kratom sellers offer third-party lab test results. You probably won’t get lab testing on kratom products you bought from the headshop, either.

Time will tell if kratom will fall into one of these five controlled substance schedules. Until then, we will continue to create a safe kratom industry for all. And if you want to get involved to stop the federal government from scheduling kratom, check out the American Kratom Association (AKA) for more information.