Controlled Drugs

What is a controlled (scheduled) drug?

A controlled (scheduled) drug is one whose use and distribution is tightly controlled because of its abuse potential or risk. Controlled drugs are rated in the order of their abuse risk and placed in Schedules by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The drugs with the highest abuse potential are placed in Schedule I, and those with the lowest abuse potential are in Schedule V. These schedules are commonly shown as C-I, C-II, C-III, C-IV, and C-V. Some examples of drugs in these Schedules are as follows:

  • Schedule I — drugs with a high abuse risk. These drugs have NO safe, accepted medical use in the United States. Some examples are heroin, marijuana, LSD, PCP, and crack cocaine.
  • Schedule II — drugs with a high abuse risk, but also have safe and accepted medical uses in the United States. These drugs can cause severe psychological or physical dependence. Schedule II drugs include certain narcotic, stimulant, and depressant drugs. Some examples are morphine, cocaine, oxycodone (Percodan®), methylphenidate (Ritalin®), and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®).
  • Schedule III, IV, or V — drugs with an abuse risk less than Schedule II. These drugs also have safe and accepted medical uses in the United States. Schedule III, IV, or V drugs include those containing smaller amounts of certain narcotic and non-narcotic drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, tranquilizers, sedatives, stimulants, and non-narcotic analgesics. Some examples are acetaminophen with codeine (Tylenol® No.3), paregoric, hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Vicodin®), diazepam (Valium®), alprazolam (Xanax®), propoxyphene (Darvon®), and pentazocine (Talwin®).

In 1981, the Texas Legislature passed a law which required doctors to write all prescriptions for Schedule II drugs on a special three‑part or triplicate form.  Effective September 1, 1999, the triplicate prescription form was replaced by an official prescription form.  Any triplicate prescriptions that are in use are still valid prescriptions and may be used until the supply is depleted.  The new official forms are issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety to prescribers.  Pharmacies electronically transmit prescription information to the DPS.  The information is used by licensing boards to identify doctors, dentists, and/or pharmacists who may be inappropriately prescribing or dispensing these highly abusable drugs.  In addition, the DPS can identify potential abusers much more quickly and stop any abuse, misuse, or diversion in a more timely manner.  The program has been very effective in reducing abuse, misuse, and diversion of Schedule II drugs in Texas.