This article will talk about the scheduling levels for drugs that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) jointly oversee. The drug scheduling is overseen by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which divides drugs into five schedules, or classifications. These classifications are designed to rate drugs from the most likely to be abused to the least. That is not the only criteria however, scheduling also depends on the presence or absence of a recognized medical use for the drug, and how dangerous the drug is to users.
Schedule one drugs are primarily overseen by the DEA, because part of the classification requires that there be no currently accepted medical use for the substance in the United States. Drugs on this schedule include heroin, marijuana, and mescaline. These drugs, according to the CSA, may not be prescribed by a doctor, and their manufacture is subject to DEA regulation, even in experimental work.
Schedule two drugs are a large class of drugs for which there is a medical use, such as morphine. While there is a legitimate use for these drugs, there is also a high risk of addiction in schedule two drugs. The FDA is involved in the release of any drug schedule two or higher via the clinical trial process, which screens drugs for addictiveness, side effects, and effectiveness.
Schedules three, four, and five feature progressively less chance of substance addiction and a lower danger to the user, but still pose enough of a potential for abuse that their dispensation is regulated by prescription or direct medical administration only. There is generally controversy surrounding several aspects of the CSA. Some key points of contention involve alcohol and tobacco; which are the most widely used drugs in the country. They are given a blanket exception, and are instead regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
Clinical trials, for everything from diabetes medication to blood pressure medication are undertaken by drug companies hoping to bring a drug to market. They conduct a series of clinical trials and submit the results to the FDA for evaluation. If their drug has been shown to be effective in treating a certain condition, odds are good that the drug will be approved and placed somewhere in schedules two through five. This allows physicians to prescribe the drug, and the drug maker to sell it to pharmacies. If the drug fails the tests, it is still reviewed by the FDA, but depending on the effects of the drug and its potential for abuse, it may be placed on schedule one. This prohibits the use of the drug by physicians or patients, and greatly limits the scope of further research on the drug.