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Schedule III Drug Classification & Drug List

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  • 0:01 Drug Schedules
  • 2:29 Schedule III Drugs
  • 4:57 Examples of Schedule III Drugs
  • 7:01 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.

Since the enactment of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, drugs have been categorized into five separate schedules. For the most part, the schedules range from most to least dangerous. This lesson explains the Schedule III drug class.

Drug Schedules

In 2013, the Biogenesis baseball scandal led to the suspension of Alex Rodriguez and a dozen other Major League Baseball players. The players were accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids. These substances are banned by the MLB, but the investigation reached beyond that. The federal government became involved because these drugs are Schedule III Controlled Substances.

Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970 as a response to rising crime rates and drug use. This law consolidated the previously existing federal drug laws into one statute and reduced penalties for marijuana possession. The goal was to make drug-related crimes faster and easier to prosecute.

To further that goal, Title II of the law set out 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. This was done as a convenience to lawmakers; new federal and state laws can just refer to the drug schedules. For example, in Oregon, a first time offense for unlawful possession of any Schedule III substance is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and $6,250 in fines. Oregon doesn't need a separate law for each Schedule III drug.

Notice that a controlled substance is legally defined as a drug or chemical listed in one of the drug schedules. Generally speaking, if the drug or chemical isn't listed in one of the schedules, then it's considered to be non-controlled.

All federal laws relating to controlled substances are enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA. It was created in 1973 and consolidated several federal law enforcement agencies into one entity in order to better enforce the federal drug laws. In other words, the DEA enforces the CSA.

Schedule III Drugs

The CSA schedules drugs according to 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 schedules are arranged in a spectrum. Schedule I drugs are those considered to have no medical benefit and a high potential for addiction or abuse. Schedule V drugs are those considered to have a recognized medical benefit and a low potential for abuse. Schedule III sits right in the middle.

Schedule III includes controlled substances that have a currently accepted medical use in the United States and a generally moderate risk of addiction or abuse. Schedule III drugs are considered to have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule I or Schedule II drugs. However, note that drugs are sometimes categorized in Schedule III because they have a moderate to low risk of physical dependence but a high risk of psychological dependence.

Physical dependence refers to the human body's reliance on a substance to the point that the body cannot function without it. When a physically dependent body goes without the drug, the body will experience withdrawal effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and overall pain. These physical symptoms tell the body it needs more of the drug in order to function. Physical dependence normally requires a detoxification process. Detoxification is a method for slowly weaning the body off of a substance.

Psychological dependence, on the other hand, refers to a perceived need for a substance, based on a strong compulsion or urge to use the substance. The body may not physically depend on the drug, but the mind does. Psychological dependence normally requires rehabilitation in order to recover. Rehabilitation teaches the skills and coping techniques required to ward off desires and cravings for the substance.

Examples of Schedule III Drugs

Now let's take a look at some examples of Schedule III drugs. Besides anabolic steroids, Schedule III includes:

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