The US Drug Scheduling System is Broken

Garrett Summers | @g_summ300

The Controlled Substances Act created the US system for ranking each drug by comparing their medicinal value to their potential for abuse. For Example, according to the DEA, schedule one drugs have no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. Marijuana happens to fall into the schedule one group while cocaine is a schedule two drug. This means, according to the US Government, cocaine has more accepted medicinal uses than marijuana. Under the Controlled Substance Act, The FDA defines marijuana as a schedule one drug. Tt’s therefore “not safe to use even under medical supervision”. However, the DEA allows medical cocaine use with “severe restrictions.”

Drug Scheduling and Marijuana

The biggest issue with the Controlled Substances Act is that when considering the medicinal use of the drug, the drug scheduling system is far from optimal. According to the US drug scheduling system, marijuana is not safe for use even under doctor’s supervision. But the medicinal uses of marijuana are widely accepted throughout the medical community. The DEA considered rescheduling Marijuana as a schedule two drug but failed to do so.

How the DEA failed to reschedule is beyond me. Reducing the Scheduling of marijuana would at least make it easier for researchers to obtain the plant to do clinical trials. Instead, the DEA ignored the known medical uses of marijuana. They kept marijuana arbitrarily scheduled, making it much harder to study the uses of marijuana any further. This is a failure of our regulatory bodies. The bureaucracy continues to create unpopular, anti-scientific laws that the majority of citizens do not agree with. The legislature needs to step in and pass a bill ending the arbitrary prohibition of marijuana.

Drug Scheduling and Heroin

The Controlled Substances Act says heroine has no use, even medically, and lists it as a schedule one drug. However, doctors have been using heroin in a medical context for over 100 years. Heroin was originally used in cough medicine but is still found useful in some rare instances today. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence named diamorphine (heroin) to be useful in post caesarean section pain relief. The United Kingdom still recognizes and prescribes heroin for palliative care, amongst other things.

While it is hard to argue that heroin has a net benefit, this shows that doctors can use heroin to some benefit under a doctor’s supervision. This means that the US Drug Scheduling system has misjudged heroin when considering its medicinal use. It is important for the DEA to properly define drugs and their properties when regulating them. Otherwise, the DEA will continue to ban things arbitrarily schedule heroine and marijuana equally meaninglessly.


Many psychedelic drugs are schedule one drugs. The DEA considers them to be unsafe and at high risk of abuse. This is despite the fact LSD and Psilocybin have both shown promising uses in mental healthcare. Since both drugs are still schedule one drugs, it is hard for researches to obtain the drugs to further their research. The FDA is not supposed to approve any medicines that do not have extensive clinical trials. Having a drug as a schedule one restricts the amount of the drug that is available for research. This makes it nearly impossible to have long extensive studies. The DEA also looks to studies on drugs when considering the schedule of the drug. So the DEA is making it hard to study schedule one drugs but the only way to lower a scheduling is to study the drug.

Abuse of the System

The Controlled Substances Act does not clearly define abuse in the legislation. It appears that the DEA does not consider addictive properties when deciding a drugs potential for abuse. LSD and psilocybin are not considered addictive and marijuana is not considered physically addictive. This has not stopped the DEA from scheduling them in the same group as the highly addictive heroin and above the highly addictive cocaine. The US Drug Scheduling System is clearly broken and does not allow doctors and scientists to study drugs they could use in medicine.

It’s clear our regulatory bodies handle drugs incredibly poorly. It is time for our legislature to pass laws that loosen the regulations on certain drugs that have shown some promise in medicine so that we may study them further.

71 Republic takes pride in our distinctively independent journalism and editorials. Every dollar you give helps us grow our mission of providing reliable coverage. Please consider donating to our Patreon.

Featured Image Source