A Quick Summary of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)

The United States Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 to expand and define the federal government’s powers to regulate medications, narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens, and other drugs which can be addictive or harm society if abused.

The Act created five different classifications of drugs and established policy by which medications can be imported, manufactured, distributed, and used. Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can add or remove drugs from the different classifications, which are technically known as schedules.

The U.S. Congress can also add substances to schedules — for instance, in 2000, Congress added the date rape drug gamma hydroxybutyrate to schedule 1 — the most highly controlled schedule.

Over the past 4+ decades, the Act has been amended multiple times. For instance, in 1978, the Psychotropic Substances Act helped define how certain psychotropic drugs should be regulated.

The Five Schedules

Schedule 1

These substances do not have a legitimate medical use in the United States, and they can be quite addictive. Examples include: LSD, heroin, and gamma hydroxybutyrate.

Schedule 2

These are substances that can be used medically but can also be quite addictive. Examples include: morphine, methadone, Demerol, pure codeine, cocaine, Ritalin.

Schedule 3

Schedule 3 substances are drugs that have a medical use that lead only to a “moderate or low physical dependence” and are less likely to be abused than drugs in schedules 1 and 2. Examples include: ketamine, Vicodin, and anabolic steroids.

Schedule 4

Schedule 4 drugs have a currently medical accepted medical use in the US and a lower chance of abuse. Examples include certain barbiturates and benzodiazepines like Klonopin.

Schedule 5

These drugs have a clear medical use, low potential for abuse and limited psychological and physical dependence. Examples include: cough medications that have a small quantity of codeine and some anti-diarrhea medications and anticonvulsants.


If you violate the Federal Controlled Substances Act — Title 21, Chapter 13 of the US Code — you can face a gamut of penalties, including Jail time, fines, strict probation terms, loss of a license, and many secondary and tertiary problems — such as trouble getting a job and loss of the right to vote in elections.

Your punishments will depend on a variety of factors, including whether you distributed, manufactured, or possessed a controlled substance; the classification of the substance you used/possessed/distributed; whether you provided drugs to minors; whether you acted in a criminal conspiracy; and whether you’ve been arrested/convicted previously of Federal criminal drug charges or other felony or misdemeanor counts.

A West Texas criminal defense attorney can help you develop and execute a strategic defense and ensure that your rights under the law are fully protected.

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