The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, is the legal cornerstone of the government’s war against drug abuse. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has divided these substances into five categories, called “schedules,” based on each drug’s (1) potential for abuse, (2) safety, (3) addictive potential and (4) whether or not it has any legitimate medical applications.
Schedule I includes marijuana, heroin and other narcotics, and hallucinogens such as LSD and psilocybin. All are street drugs, with no accepted therapeutic uses. But there’s a good chance that your medicine cabinet contains one or more potent highs from one of the other categories. For example, if someone in the family recently underwent major surgery, there might be a vial of the powerful narcotic painkiller Demerol, a schedule II medication, sitting next to the dental floss. Methylphenidate, which goes under the brand name Ritalin, is commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults, as are two other schedule II drugs, Adderall and Dexedrine.
Benzodiazepines, a family of sedatives, muscle relaxants and more, belong to schedule IV. They rank among the most widely used pharmaceuticals in the country—and also among the most abused. Finally, what household doesn’t have a bottle of cough syrup stored somewhere under the bathroom sink? Many brands are laced with the ubiquitous narcotic analgesic/cough suppressant codeine. Swigging a bottle of that is enough to zonk out a youngster, not to mention make him good and sick. The fact that as many as one in four adolescents have tried inhalants—sniffing the vapors of ordinary household products like glue, nail-polish remover and cleaning fluid—tells us the lengths some teenagers will go to alter their consciousness.