Scheduling controlled substances depends on potential for harm

Most people will find themselves in need of some type of medication during their lifetimes. It is not unusual for some of these medications to fall into the category of a controlled substance along with other types of drugs that may not necessarily have medicinal uses. In fact, it is common for drug-related charges to stem from illegal acts involving controlled substances.

Certain substances pose greater risks of harm or abuse to users, and if authorities believe that you possess a controlled substance without a prescription or one that does not allow a prescription, you could face serious allegations. The severity of any charges that do result from this type of situation may depend on the category of drug involved.

What are the different schedules of drugs?

When you consider categorizing substances, you may think that people can interchangeably use the terms "class" and "schedule." However, class and schedule refer to two different types of categorization. For instance, drugs can fall into the classes of stimulants, anabolic steroids, narcotics, depressants and hallucinogens, depending on their main properties.

When it comes to categorizing substances by schedule, the organization typically depends on the potential harmfulness of the substance. The different schedules of controlled substances include the following:

  • Schedule I drugs: Substances in this category have the highest potential for abuse, are unsafe and do not have medical use, such as heroin or LSD.
  • Schedule II drugs: Substances in this category still have a high potential for abuse and risk for dependency. These substances can have medical use, such as morphine and methamphetamine.
  • Schedule III drugs: Substances in this category have a lower potential for abuse and dependency as well as having medical uses, such as hydrocodone with aspirin.
  • Schedule IV drugs: Substances in this category have a low potential for abuse compared to other schedule groups, but physical or psychological dependence may result from abuse, such as with Valium or Xanax.
  • Schedule V drugs: Substances in this category have the lowest potential for abuse and a limited dependency risk, such as cough medicine with codeine.

As you likely can determine, if authorities find you in possession of a Schedule I substance, you will face more serious charges than for a Schedule V substance.

What can you do about charges?

Whatever the category of substance authorities believed you possessed, you have the right to defend against any allegations brought against you. Working with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney may be a smart move when facing this type of predicament.

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