Schedule II Drug Classification & Drug List

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  • 0:02 War on Drugs
  • 1:20 Controlled Substances Act
  • 3:10 Drug Schedules
  • 4:25 Schedule II Drugs
  • 7:20 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.

The Controlled Substances Act requires drugs to be sorted into five separate schedules. A drug's schedule reflects the drug's acceptable medical use and its potential for addiction and abuse. This lesson explains the Schedule II drug class.

War on Drugs

The late 1960s were an interesting time in the United States. We were heavily involved in the Vietnam War as anti-war activities increased. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and hit crucial points with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreational drug use became more mainstream. Young, white, middle-class Americans were using drugs more than ever before. Recreational drug use represented a form of social defiance during this era of rebellion.

The government's response started with President Lyndon Johnson's War on Crime in the mid-1960s. That was followed by President Richard Nixon's declaration of a War on Drugs in the early 1970s. Congress enacted the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970. The act was central to the ''war.'' It consolidated all previously existing federal drug laws into one statute so the laws could be enforced more easily. Before this act, the U.S. had over 200 separate federal drug laws.

Controlled Substances Act

The act's Title II is known as the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA. The CSA established five classes, known as ''schedules,'' for regulating drugs according to their medical value and potential for abuse. New federal and state drug laws could refer to the schedules. The CSA eliminated the need for a new drug law to address each new drug that came on the scene. The laws were better able to keep up with the ever-changing drug culture.

For example, cocaine is a Schedule II drug. The powder type, which is a hydrochloride salt form, became a popular drug in the U.S. during the 1970s. That type is typically inhaled. By the mid-1980s, crack cocaine was in popular use. Crack is made by evaporating the hydrochloride out of the cocaine and drying the residue into a rock. The rock is typically smoked. Innovations like these keep law enforcement officers on their toes. Luckily, the evolving drug technology doesn't usually necessitate new legislation. In this case, Schedule II already included cocaine and its salts, isomers, derivatives and salts of isomers and derivatives. In other words, there were laws prohibiting crack cocaine before its invention.

The CSA is enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA. The DEA was created in 1973 and consolidated several federal law enforcement agencies into one entity in order to better enforce the federal drug laws.

Drug Schedules

Let's take a closer look at the schedules. The CSA schedules are 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

The five schedules are arranged in a spectrum, from most to least dangerous. 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. As such, Schedule I drugs garner the highest criminal penalties, and Schedule V drugs usually earn the lowest.

Note that we're specifically examining Schedule II. Schedule II contains drugs with a high potential for abuse, though less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. This class is considered to be the second most dangerous group of drugs.

Schedule II Drugs

Notice that Schedule II drugs have a currently accepted medical use in the United States, though they have severe restrictions. This means that, unlike Schedule I drugs, people can have a valid and legal prescription for Schedule II drugs. For example, you won't have much luck getting a doctor to write you a prescription for cocaine. But cocaine can be used, by prescription, as a local anesthetic. Just know that it's usually not, since there are safer choices.

However, some Schedule II drugs are commonly used medications found in everyday homes and pharmacies, though they are highly regulated. Schedule II drug prescriptions may not be refilled, and an original, written prescription is usually required.

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