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Everything You Need to Know About Schedule III Drugs

Posted by arizonarecovery on June 4, 2020

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was enacted in 1970 which led to the classification of drugs into five different schedules. The categories ranged from the most dangerous (Schedule I) to the least of all (Schedule V). These drug classification terms have become an integral part to classify and differentiate drugs based on the damage they can cause.

People who are unaware of scheduling often consider all drugs to be equally deteriorating to health. While this is true to some extent, it cannot be deemed accurate in every aspect. For example, classification of drugs helps lawmakers, medical practitioners, and law enforcers to understand how to better handle a situation that has anything to do with drug abuse.

But one question that prevails is how does the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FDA know which drug to be kept in which category?


According to various studies, the process is quite tricky and requires close inspection of the drug’s effectiveness and also the risks associated with it. Any drug that enters the market goes through an identification process where it is carefully analyzed. Both pharmaceutical and street drugs rising in popularity are considered. The DEA first determines the possibility of the drug can be abused or not. If yes then the process continues.

Classification of drugs begins with clinical trials and researches based on how addictive the drug can be. Considering different parameters, drugs with a high probability of addiction and most negative effects are kept in Schedule I and those with least chances of addiction than Schedule I are kept in Schedule II and so on till Schedule V. The lower schedule drugs receive a nod from the DEA for use while the others are strictly contained and deemed illegal to use both for medical purposes and otherwise.

Schedule III Drugs

Schedule III is a classification under which the controlled substances can be used for medical purposes in the United States. These drugs generally pose less risk of developing an addiction and also have fewer effects on the body. However, while Schedule III drugs have fewer chances of abuse than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs, they can still have a greater risk of developing a psychological dependence. The physical dependence, though, still falls in the low to moderate risk zone.

As compared to Schedule I drugs that have no medical benefits, Schedule III drugs are usually prescribed by the medical practitioners to the patients in case of an injury, illness, and any other health-related issue. Some of the examples of Schedule III drugs include:

  • Ketamine
  • Tylenol with Codeine; not having more than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit.
  • Buprenorphine
  • Vicodin
  • Non-narcotics such as Anabolic Steroids like Depo-Testosterone

Schedule III drugs although they have a less physical dependence, however, they can still overpower the body psychologically. The reason why it is always advised to the patients that they must limit their drug intake as set by the medical practitioner. Schedule III drugs pose less threat of abuse, but the precautions must always be taken.

Schedule III Drugs availability

The DEA classifies Schedule III drugs fit for medical purposes since they have low chances to get abused. But when misused to a larger extent, these drugs still have the possibility to develop an addiction. Schedule III drugs are available at pharmacies and patients can purchase them with a valid prescription. However, they are generally not available over the counter.

Can a Schedule III drug move to a lower or higher schedule?

The answer to this question depends largely on whether or not the DEA wants to consider it. Over a few years, certain drugs have been re-classified. For example, in the year 2014, hydrocodone moved from Schedule III to Schedule II. However, unscheduling of drugs is rare and drugs once kept in a schedule remain there until solid evidence proves otherwise.

This has garnered quite a lot of controversies around the Controlled Substances Act. One instance is the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. This is the opposite of what medical experts believe. According to them, marijuana has a low to moderate risk of developing an addiction and can be helpful for patients suffering from cancer or other health conditions. Similar evidence proved that marijuana doesn’t belong in Schedule I but the DEA denied reclassification and retained its status as a Schedule I drug in 2016. The decision lures over the concept where once a drug is considered illegal, it’s not taken back. It is the war on drugs. However, whether marijuana belongs to Schedule II or Schedule III is still a debatable topic.

More substances, for example, alcohol and cigarettes, are exempted from scheduling which has raised certain questions. Like any other substance in different schedules, alcohol and tobacco too have the capability to cause physical and psychological dependence. They also have health risks that are similar or even worse than those caused by other substances.


Schedule III drugs are allowed for medical use and have a lower possibility to engage an individual in addiction. However, medical professionals advise that it is still good to strictly maintain a dosage as suggested. If taken more than what’s advised, addiction can easily kick in.

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