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With controlled substances, strict regulations are placed on how a drug may be used, how many refills are allowed, and how likely the substance is to be abused. Medications that belong to this group are typically drugs that affect the brain. Each drug is classified as a Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V medication. Schedule I drugs have the strongest restrictions in place.

What Is a Controlled Substance?

A controlled substance is a drug or other substance that is restricted and controlled completely. The making of the drug or substance, as well as its ownership, delivery, use, and disposal (throwing away), are restricted by the government. Some precursors (substances that are used to make drugs) are controlled in addition to the actual drug.
In pharmacies and other healthcare settings, everything about a controlled substance is monitored and controlled. This includes how:
  • It is ordered and received
  • People receive and use the drug
  • How it is discarded by the pharmacy or person if not completely used.
Most controlled substances are psychoactive chemicals and drugs (they affect the brain). Prescription medications like birth control pills, blood pressure medications, and antibiotics are not controlled.

How Does the Government Regulate Controlled Substances?

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1971 regulates controlled substances. The CSA was written to address overall drug abuse prevention and control, not just for pharmacies and other healthcare settings.
Each state also has its own controlled substances laws based upon what it believes is best for the health and safety of its citizens. Sometimes, the state and federal laws are similar; sometimes, they are different. Whichever law is more restrictive in a particular state applies.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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