Controlled Drugs

What is a controlled (scheduled) drug?

Controlled (scheduled) drugs, substances, and certain chemicals are ones whose use and distribution are tightly controlled because of their 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, and potential for psychological and/or physical dependence, 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 narcotics, stimulants, and depressant drugs. Some examples are morphine, cocaine, oxycodone (OxyContin®), , 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, diazepam (Valium®), alprazolam (Xanax®) 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. Effective June 1, 2019, only an official prescription form is valid. The new official forms are issued by the Board of Pharmacy to prescribers.

Pharmacies electronically transmit prescription information to the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). 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 PMP can identify potential abusers much more quickly and stop any abuse, misuse, or diversion in a timely manner.

Beginning March 1, 2020, pharmacists, and prescribers (other than a veterinarian) are required to check the patient’s PMP history before dispensing or prescribing opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or carisoprodol. These programs have been very effective in reducing abuse, misuse, and diversion of controlled drugs in Texas.

Safe Disposal of Controlled Drugs

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Diversion Control Division maintains a website where you can search by location for a site to safely dispose of controlled substances. Learn more and search for safe disposal locations here.