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The Drug Schedule Classification Pyramid

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) organizes drugs, substances, and chemicals used to make drugs into five separate categories, or “schedules.” These five schedules are defined by the drug’s “acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential,” according to the DEA website. They are organized in descending order from highest potential for abuse to least potential for abuse.

For example, Schedule 1 drugs (shown at the top of the pyramid in the infographic) have a high abuse potential and can possibly create severe physical or psychological dependence. Schedule 5 drugs, in comparison, have limited quantities of certain narcotics, a low risk of dependence, and can be used safely for medical purposes.

To understand the differences between each schedule and types of drugs that belong in each category, read on.

Schedule 1

Schedule 1 drugs have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a high potential for abuse, and a lack of acceptable safe use under medical supervision.

Examples of Schedule 1 drugs include:

  • Heroin
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD
  • Marijuana*
  • Peyote
  • Methaqualone
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or ecstasy

In 2012, Colorado Amendment 64 legalized the production, sale, and use of adult recreational marijuana. While it is legal for adults to purchase, use, or possess marijuana in Colorado, there are some restrictions.

Schedule 2

Schedule 2 drugs, substances, or chemicals have a high potential for abuse. Use may possibly lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. They are also considered “dangerous” according to the DEA.

Examples of Schedule 2 drugs include:

  • Cocaine
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Opium
  • Combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin®)
  • Meperidine (Demerol®)
  • Fentanyl (Sublimaze®, Duragesic®)
  • Amphetamine (Adderall®)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®)
  • Methadone (Dolophine®)
  • Oxycodone (Percocet®)
  • Methamphetamine (Desoxyn®)

Schedule 3

Schedule 3 drugs have a moderate to low potential for abuse and psychological or physical dependence. The abuse potential is less than Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 drugs, but more than Schedule 4.

Examples of Schedule 3 drugs include:

  • Products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage (Tylenol® with codeine)
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone®)
  • Ketamine
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Testosterone

Drugs in Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 are often used to treat pain or induce sedation.

Drug classes arranged by federal categorization

Schedule 4

Schedule 4 drugs have a low potential for abuse and a low risk of dependence.

Examples of Schedule 4 drugs include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax®)
  • Carisoprodol (Soma®)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin®)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene®)
  • Diazepam (Valium®)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan®)
  • Midazolam (Versed®)
  • Temazepam (Restoril®)
  • Triazolam (Halcion®)

Some Schedule 4 drugs are used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, or insomnia.

Schedule 5

Schedule 5 drugs, substances, or chemicals have the lowest potential for abuse of the five, and consist primarily of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics.

Examples of Schedule 5 drugs include:

  • Cough preparations containing less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters or per 100 grams (Robitussin AC®, Phenergan with Codeine®)
  • Ezogabine
  • Lomotil
  • Motofen
  • Lyrica
  • Parapectolin

Schedule 5 drugs are generally used for analgesic, antitussive, or antidiarrheal purposes.

Speak to a drug defense lawyer today 

Drug classification, as well as drug crimes, can be complicated and difficult to understand. If you or a loved one is involved in criminal drug charges in Colorado, contact Wolf Law today. We provide support, a wide variety of resources, and aggressive legal representation to our clients.

Call the Wolf Law office in Denver at 720-479-8574 or complete our online contact form so we can begin examining your case. You can also follow our firm on Facebook and Twitter for more resources.