Schedule I Drug Classification & Drug List

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  • 0:01 Controlled Substances
  • 1:51 Drug Schedules
  • 4:02 Schedule I Drugs
  • 6:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley has a JD degree and is an attorney. She has extensive experience as a prosecutor and legal writer, and she has taught and written various law courses.

United States law requires drugs to be classified into five separate schedules. A drug's schedule is determined by the drug's acceptable medical use and its potential for abuse. This lesson looks at the Schedule I drug classification.

Controlled Substances

The United States used to have over 200 different laws to govern drugs. It was a lot for police officers, prosecutors and judges to handle! By the late 1960s, the U.S. was experiencing a growing crime rate and a rise in recreational drug use. New studies linked crime and drug addiction and eventually led Congress to act.

The result was the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970. The act consolidated the previously existing federal drug laws into one statute and reduced penalties for marijuana possession.

The Act's Title II is the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA. The CSA established five classes, known as 'schedules,' for regulating drugs according to their medicinal value and potential for abuse. The CSA also requires all entities that manufacture, distribute, handle, store, import or export drugs to register with the government. They must keep detailed records of their transactions and inventory and provide proper security for the controlled substances.

The CSA is enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA. The DEA was created in 1973 as part of Nixon's ongoing 'War on Drugs.' It consolidated several federal law enforcement agencies into one entity in order to better enforce the federal controlled substances laws and regulations.

Drug Schedules

Since 1970 and the CSA, a controlled substance is legally defined as a drug or chemical listed in one of the drug schedules. Generally speaking, if a drug isn't 'scheduled,' it's considered to be non-controlled. Many substances, like aspirin, are regulated by other laws but not considered to be controlled substances under the CSA. The schedules also don't include alcohol or tobacco.

It's important to notice the difference between 'categories' or 'types,' and schedules. Drugs can be categorized by type of drug, such as hallucinogens, narcotics, depressants or stimulants. That type of categorization refers to what the drug does to one's body and is different than scheduling.

The CSA schedules individual drugs, chemicals and compounds so that the federal government and state governments can enact criminal statutes by simply referring to the schedules. Each schedule contains hundreds of individual drugs that fall within various types. For example, heroin is a Schedule I drug. Under federal law, possessing more than 100 grams, as a first offense, will result in a penalty between five and forty years. However, a first offense unauthorized possession of any Schedule V drug, such as some cough suppressants containing codeine, will result in a penalty of no more than one year.

Scheduling is based on three factors:

  • The drug's known medical benefits
  • The drug's status in international treaties, or the way other countries handle the legality of the drug
  • The drug's potential for addiction or abuse

Schedule I drugs are considered to be the most dangerous, with the highest potential for abuse. Schedule V drugs are considered to be the least dangerous controlled substances, with the lowest potential for abuse.

Schedule I Drugs

Let's take a closer look at Schedule I. Schedule I drugs are controlled substances considered to have no medical benefit and high potential for abuse. Interestingly, marijuana has long been classified as a Schedule I drug, though many states recognize a medical benefit, and some states have recently legalized its wide, recreational use.

Some other examples of Schedule I drugs include:

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