Schedule V Drug Classification & Drug List

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  • 0:01 Controlled Substances
  • 0:59 Controlled Substances Act
  • 2:30 Drug Schedules
  • 3:58 Schedule V Drugs
  • 5:43 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 'drug schedules' are used to classify controlled substances. The five schedules categorize controlled substances according to their medicinal value and risk of abuse. This lesson explains the Schedule V drug class.

Controlled Substances

Cathy has a horrible cough. She's been dealing with it for weeks and has taken nearly every cough medication she can find on the shelves at her local drug store. She thinks she needs something stronger. She asks the pharmacist, and he tells her she probably needs a cough medicine containing codeine. But, he tells Cathy she'll need a prescription from a doctor.

That's because codeine is a controlled substance, meaning it's a drug or chemical listed in one of the federal government's 'drug schedules.' The drug schedules are detailed lists of the substances that were controlled in 1970 when the schedules took effect, as well as the substances that have been added since that time.

The cold medicines and cough syrups Cathy's been buying off the shelves at the drug store are not included in the drug schedules. Drugs and chemicals not listed in the schedules are considered to be non-controlled substances.

Controlled Substances Act

Let's take a look at how the drug schedules came to be. Prior to 1970, the United States had over 200 different drug laws. In the 1960s, the U.S. was experiencing a growing crime rate and a rise in recreational drug use. Studies linked crime to drug addiction, leading Congress to act. The result was the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The law consolidated the previously existing federal drug laws into one statute and reduced penalties for marijuana possession. Legislators wanted to make drug-related crimes faster and easier to prosecute.

The law's Title II is the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA. The CSA establishes 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 and also in an effort to streamline prosecutions. Subsequent federal and state laws could refer to the drug schedules. For example, lawmakers no longer needed to enact separate laws for each cough suppressant containing codeine, such as Robitussin AC and Dex-Tuss. Instead, laws could simply refer to Schedule V or to cough preparations containing less than 200 milligrams of codeine.

Drug Schedules

Now, let's take a closer look at the schedules. The CSA schedules substances based on three main 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 generally represent the 'seriousness' of the drugs. Schedule I drugs are those with no current medical use in the U.S. and a high potential for addiction or abuse. Schedule I includes the most dangerous illegal drugs, such as heroin and ecstasy. No prescriptions may be written for Schedule I drugs. The schedules decline in seriousness from there.

Schedule V includes drugs with a current medical use in the U.S. and a low potential for abuse. They are considered to be the least dangerous of the controlled substances. Specifically, Schedule V drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV drugs.

Schedule V drugs are available by doctor's prescription. The prescription can be written, called-in or transmitted electronically. Schedule V prescriptions may be refilled if authorized by the prescribing doctor.

Schedule V Drugs

Let's look at a few examples of Schedule V drugs. We've mentioned medicines containing a relatively small amount of codeine. Codeine, in general, is a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a recognized medical use but a high potential for abuse. Drugs can only be placed in Schedule V if they contain no more than 200 milligrams of codeine.

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