Prior to 1970, federal law mandated regulation of certain substances. The Controlled Substances Act gained congressional approval that year and organized the substances under federal regulation at that time into five schedules based on their potential for abuse and their accepted medical use. The CSA also included provisions for decontrolling substances, transferring a substance to a new schedule or adding a new substance to an existing schedule. 

The purpose of drug scheduling is to restrict your access to certain substances unless you have a legitimate reason to possess it. The Drug Enforcement Administration explains the criteria involved in scheduling or re-scheduling a drug as well as who can request a scheduling change. 

What factors go into drug scheduling consideration? 

In broad terms, the basis for drug scheduling is the potential for a substance’s abuse balanced against the possible medical benefits of taking it. Therefore, when considering controlling, re-scheduling or decontrolling a substance, the DEA looks at criteria such as its historical patterns of abuse as well as its future abuse potential. The DEA also looks at the state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug, including any available evidence about its pharmacological effects. 

Who can request a change to a drug’s schedule? 

Interested parties can initiate proceedings via petition to add or delete a substance from control, as well as to change a drug’s current schedule. These parties include individual citizens, public interest groups and government agencies at the local or state level. Other examples of interested parties are medical societies, pharmacy associations and drug manufacturers. Federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, can also initiate proceedings to change the schedule of a substance.