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There is a little bit of confusion out there in the world as to the two classifications of prescriptions drugs. While it would seem that there would be an understanding of the categories since the names of these categories are bandied about quite a bit on TV and in print, usually it is done so with the assumption that the audience is already aware of the definition of the classifications. These two classifications of prescription drugs are non-controlled substances and controlled substances.


Non-Controlled substances are prescription drugs that have very little potential for abuse, but still require a doctor’s authorization in order to be dispensed. Common examples of non-controlled substances include antibiotics and certain diet drugs such as Xenical.  Usually these are dispensed to deal with common, everyday illnesses. This does not mean they can never be harmful, but they are not dangerous within their prescribed doses and do not carry the potential for addiction.

Controlled substances are substances that have the potential for abuse and must be regulated more significantly. Controlled substances are ranked in five categories called schedules. A schedule one controlled substance is an illegal drug that cannot be issued under any circumstances. These would include cocaine, heroin, etc. On a side note, marijuana is a schedule one drug and is illegal by federal laws and certain state laws, while in some states in can be prescribed by a doctor under certain circumstances.

The remaining schedules two through five are all ranked by there potential for abuse, but are common prescription drugs that can be provided by a doctor when they are required. Sometimes there are more restrictive criteria as to the process of filling the prescription, but that is to be expected in the USA as the Food and Drug Administration is very strict in how it regulates drugs so as to safeguard people’s health.

Disclaimer: Cliff Schaffer does not personally endorse or support any of the comments made within the writings of this article.

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