What is a controlled substance?

June 24, 2021
6 min read

Controlled substances could be defined as prescription drugs that are regulated by the controlled substances act (CSA) in the United States. They are often considered as illegal when used abruptly without prescription. Because Congress have recognized the drug’s potential for dependence and abuse. They have enacted the CSA into a “Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention Act” in 1970.

Depending on how potentially dangerous they can be, this act categorizes all substances that are adjusted under federal law into schedules. In what plan the medication must be placed totally depends upon its medical use, safety, the potential for abuse, or how any individual depends on it ultimately.

The law indicates that the control of drugs exists to protect individuals from getting harm with these; cautious deliberation has gone into this categorization. However, a complete survey signifies the harmfulness of the drug to the individual and society could be understood by research from sources.

When does a drug fall under the controlled substance category?

When the government firmly controls a medication or drug because it can cause addiction or can be abused, these medications come under the controlled substance category. The usage, formation, distribution, storage, and the way of handling the substance also makes it liable for its classification under controlled act. Some of the major drug classes such as an opioids, depressants, anabolic steroids, stimulants, and hallucinogens comes under controlled substances. 

Here are some examples of the controlled substance drugs:

Highly abusive and addictive drugs are heroin, methaqualone, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, and lysergic acid. Currently, they are not federally accepted for medical use by the government of the U.S. there has been a lack of safety in the acceptance of these medications usage.

What are the five classes of controlled substances?

Please don’t get confused by the classes and the schedules of the controlled substances. These are the different ways to classify or organize drugs according to their properties. The five classes of controlled substances are as follows:


Narcotics are also known as an opiate, which acts on the central nervous system to combat the chronic pain. The name opiate is generated from an opium, which is produced from poppy plants. From the studies, we have known the most common opiates that include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Morphine

Narcotics use and abuse:

The use of opiates is rising globally, so, naturally, addiction and abuse of such substances have increased in current years. It was at high in 2012 and dropped slowly since then. The national institute stated on drug abuse that:

  • Between 25 to 35 million people abuses opiates globally. 
  • Heroin being a cheaper source of opioids, about 70% of all people have switched to it with opioid addiction.  
  • In the year 2018, more than 160 million times opiate painkillers were prescribed. 
  • Most cases related to the abuse of opiate painkillers are seen in the United States, and the number crosses over two million. Nearly half a million adults in the United States are addicted to heroin. 
  • In 2010, 17000 deaths were registered because of the overconsumption of opiate painkillers in the U.S.


These are the drugs that impede the function of the (CNS) central nervous system, which is the most widely consumed drug in the world. Neurons are affected by these drugs, which led to symptoms like relaxation, decreased inhibition, sleep, drowsiness, coma, and even death. Most depressants cause addiction to the body.  

In depressants, there are significant differences among substances with the drug class. Some are very safe and are prescribed for medical purposes. Drugs that are classified as depressants are:

  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines

Ethyl alcohol:

Alcohol is an excessively used psychoactive drug in the world that comes second after caffeine. It is considered to be a legal drug, so it has a high capacity for abuse.


This type of CNS depressant is sometimes referred to as downers, which causes relaxation when small doses are taken. Barbiturates were considered a safe drug during the early 1900s, but they came as a problem of an addiction and overdoses.


These also type of CNS depressants that are widely suggested to treat sleep disorders and anxiety. At the end of the 90s, four different benzodiazepines were among the top prescribed drugs in the United States. 


This drug increases activity in the brain, and it comes under the class of psychoactive drugs. Stimulants are used to elevate mood, alertness, and awareness; still, these drugs are widely used legally. 

Though stimulants share many similarities, each has different properties of action. Stimulants include drugs which are as follows:

  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine
  • Caffeine


It has very little medical use and is considered the most widely consumed drug among the three psychoactive drugs in the world.


It is an illegal drug made from coca tree leaves. Sigmund Freud, a psychoanalyst, suggested using cocaine as a treatment but later came to know the addictive properties; this incident occurred in the late 1800s. 


The most widely used psychoactive drug globally is caffeine, found in tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, and soft drinks. Though caffeine has multiple positive effects like increased energy and alertness, excess consumption could cause symptoms like insomnia and anxiety. 


The profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality are known as hallucinations, a drug class. Users might hear the sounds, see images, and feel sensations that seem to be real under the influence of hallucinogens.

The most common used hallucinogens are:

  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • DMT
  • PCP


It is an artificial chemical made from ergot, which is a fungus that grows on grains. LSD is considered to be the most potent hallucinogen available that produce hallucination that altered moods.


Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol is an active ingredient in marijuana, which acts on the brain’s receptors and influences appetite, coordination, and pleasure. 


The drug is also known as Dimitri, which a natural chemical is found in Amazonian plant species that can be synthesized chemically. It is smoked in a pipe or bong as it generally comes as a white crystalline powder.  


It has various side effects and was discontinued for human use in 1965, which was considered a dangerous artificial substance ever developed. PCP is illegally sold on streets in liquid form or white powder.

Anabolic steroids

These drugs are artificially produced versions of naturally generating male hormone testosterone. They can be legally suggested for legitimate consumption. Gym candy, Arnolds, Roids, weight trainers are all street names for anabolic steroids. It comes in both liquid forms as well as in tablet form. 

Many body-builders consume these drugs; it has many effects like increases in muscle mass, endurance, and strength. At the start, consuming these anabolic steroids seems reasonable, but after some time, this positive feeling may turn into violence and anger.

This blog has acknowledged information about the drugs that come under controlled substances and how they can be taken properly with known precautions and side effects. 


Tobin D.G., Barrette EP. (2018) Safe Opioid Prescribing and Controlled Substance Policies. In: Lu L., Barrette EP., Noronha C., Sobel H., Tobin D. (eds) Leading an Academic Medical Practice. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68267-9_14 Accessed on 20/06/2021

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