What is drug scheduling?

Facing drug charges in North Carolina can be an extremely stressful experience. This issue can be even more intimidating depending on the severity of the charges you’re faced with, in which case the way a drug is classified becomes a factor in the legal process. This is known as drug scheduling, which helps the court determine proper punishments in the event of a conviction. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) explains how illicit drugs are categorized according to drug schedules.

How Schedules Are Determined

In general, how a drug is classed typically depends on whether it is acceptable to use medically and how addictive the substance is. Accordingly, there are five separate schedules for classifying drugs, which can either be illicit (i.e. illegal) or drugs that can be prescribed or bought to treat medical issues. Drugs that have the highest potential for abuse and dependence are ranked as schedule I or II, while drugs that have less potential for abuse will be classed as schedule III, IV, or V.

Examples of Drug Schedules

Schedule I includes drugs with a high abuse potential and no medical applications. This includes marijuana, LSD, heroin, and ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Schedule II drugs have medical usages but are still considered dangerous due to their high abuse potential. This includes cocaine, oxycodone, fentanyl, and Adderall.

Schedules III through V are considered less addictive overall and many are used consistently within the clinical setting. Schedule III drugs include ketamine and steroids, while Xanax and Ativan are considered schedule IV drugs. In terms of schedule V, cough medicine and medications designed to treat severe nerve pain (such as Lyrica) are included in this category.

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