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Why Are Some Drugs Illegal?

Why Are Some Drugs Illegal?The legal status of certain drugs is a highly debated topic among many individuals. For example, many people may wonder why certain drugs are considered illegal while alcohol is legal and readily available to the public. Government authorities have regulated the legal status of substances like drugs and alcohol throughout history. Since the first prohibition of alcohol in the 1880s, laws surrounding alcohol and drugs have come and gone as history progresses. In current times, drugs and alcohol are determined to be legal or illegal largely based on their classification by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The Controlled Substances Act

To fully understand why some drugs are illegal but not others, it is necessary to understand the CSA. In 1970, the Congress of the United States enacted the CSA as a part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Under the CSA, the federal government is given guidelines on the regulation of drug manufacturing, importation, possession, use, and distribution of many substances. The act divides substances into five categories called “schedules,” which help to determine the legal status of drugs.

Schedule I includes substances with a high potential for abuse. In addition, these drugs are not currently accepted for medical use in the US, and are considered unsafe if used without medical supervision. Drugs in this schedule include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), peyote, mescaline, MDMA, and cannabis. Substances like these are not currently available even through prescription. As medical views of cannabis change, there have been many proposals to have the substance moved to a different schedule. Despite several proposals, this change has not yet been accepted.

Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse, can result in severe dependence, and are accepted for medical use in the US under severe restrictions. Drugs in this schedule include cocaine, Ritalin, amphetamines, opium, oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, phencyclidine (PCP), and short-acting barbiturates. Under the federal law, refills of these drugs may not be given, but the prescriber must instead write separate orders. This reduces the risk of using these drugs for lengths longer than necessary.

Schedule III substances are found to have less potential for abuse than Schedule I and II drugs. They may lead to moderate dependence and have recognized uses for medical purposes. The control of these drugs is less stringent than that of Schedule I and II drugs due to the lowered risks associated with the Schedule II classification.

Schedule IV substances are considered to have a low potential for abuse, are accepted for medical use in the US, and can lead to limited dependence. This schedule includes certain benzodiazepines, long-acting barbiturates, and certain drugs to treat diarrhea.

Lastly, Schedule V drugs are considered to have the lowest risk of abuse and dependence. They are accepted for medical use in the US. Many of these are available without prescription as over-the-counter drugs, but they must often be dispensed by a pharmacy.

Therefore, drugs are subjected to scrutiny and analysis to determine which schedule they should be placed into. Some drugs have been known to change schedules after exhaustive research has indicated that such a reclassification can occur.

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