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What are drug schedules and how do they affect criminal charges?

On Behalf of | Nov 7, 2023 | Drug Crimes

Not all drug charges are alike. There are all kinds of factors that have to be considered when someone is charged with a drug crime – including the type of drug or drugs involved.

The government has divided all drugs into “schedules” according to their known medical uses and potential for addiction. The higher the schedule a drug belongs to, the more serious the penalties associated with the possession, distribution or manufacturing of that drug.

Understanding the 5 drug schedules

Drug schedules are federal classifications of drugs. These classifications help label the potential for a drug to lead to addiction and abuse. As the drug becomes more severe, users may become dependent on the drugs. Here are the five kinds of drug schedules that you should know:

  • Schedule I: Drugs with the highest potential of abuse, addiction and dependence are classified as Schedule I drugs, such as LSD, heroin and peyote. These drugs can lead to severe withdrawal effects and permanent neurological changes. Schedule I drugs are often not considered safe for use under any circumstances. 
  • Schedule II: Drugs like cocaine, morphine and PCP have a high potential for addiction and abuse. These drugs often have no safe use, but they do find some potential for medical procedures. 
  • Schedule III: Steroids and testosterone are often used for medical purposes. These drugs are classified as Schedule III because they have some risk of addiction. Many people benefit from these drugs, but their use is often scrutinized. 
  • Schedule IV: Drugs with a low chance of dependency are considered schedule IV drugs. Valium, Xanax and Ambien are a few names that are among schedule IV drugs.
  • Schedule V: Drugs with the lowest form of dependence are schedule V drugs, which can be found and bought over the counter.

For many people, a drug possession charge can affect their families and employment. Many people who are charged with drug possession live the rest of their lives in jail. People facing criminal charges for drug possession may need to learn about their legal defense options.


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