controlled substance | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Law

A controlled substance is a drug or chemical that is regulated by law because it has the potential for abuse or other negative consequences.

Controlled substances, by legal definition, are drugs or chemicals whose manufacture, possession, or use are regulated by the government due to their potential for abuse or harm. These substances range from illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin to prescription medications like oxycodone and Xanax. The laws surrounding these substances are primarily designed to protect public health and maintain societal order.

In the United States, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) governs the regulation of these drugs. Enacted by Congress as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, the CSA categorizes these substances into five schedules based on their medicinal value, harmfulness, and potential for abuse or addiction.

Schedule I substances are deemed the most dangerous, having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy fall under this category. Marijuana is also a Schedule I substance at the federal level, despite its legalized medical use in several states, reflecting ongoing debate about its potential benefits and harms.

Schedule II substances also have a high potential for abuse, which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. However, unlike Schedule I substances, these drugs have currently accepted medical uses. Examples include oxycodone, methadone, and Adderall.

Schedule III substances are drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. These substances, such as anabolic steroids and some barbiturates, have less abuse potential than Schedule I or II substances but are regulated due to their potential harm.

Schedule IV substances are drugs with a low potential for abuse and a low risk of dependence. They include drugs like Xanax, Soma, and Valium. These substances have accepted medical uses and are often prescribed by doctors, but they are still controlled due to their potential for misuse.

Finally, Schedule V substances are drugs with a lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV. They consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics, such as cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters or per 100 grams, and are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes.

It’s crucial to note that while the possession, sale, or distribution of controlled substances is generally illegal, exceptions exist for those substances prescribed by healthcare professionals, as they are used to treat legitimate medical conditions. In recent years, some states have even passed laws allowing the use of certain substances, like marijuana, for medicinal purposes, despite federal restrictions.

Ultimately, the regulation of controlled substances is a complex issue that strives to balance public health concerns, the potential for abuse and addiction, and the genuine medical needs of individuals. With ongoing research and changes in societal attitudes towards certain substances, the classification and regulation of controlled substances continue to evolve.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/14/2023

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