is alcohol a controlled substance

Is Alcohol Considered a Controlled Substance?

While the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) regulates a wide range of drugs, it’s essential to differentiate between controlled substances and other regulated substances. The CSA categorizes drugs based on their potential for abuse and medical benefits. Although many ask, Is alcohol a controlled substance, it’s notable that alcohol does not fall under the controlled substances list in the CSA. However, this doesn’t mean alcohol is free from regulations. Alcohol is governed by other laws and acts due to its unique characteristics, potential for misuse, and widespread consumption.

What is the Classification of Alcohol?

Alcohol Classification: Despite its widespread legal availability, alcohol is a psychoactive substance with a significant potential for abuse. It is not classified under the Controlled Substances Act but is regulated under different laws. Alcohol is categorized as a depressant because it slows down vital functions—resulting in slurred speech, unsteady movement, and an inability to react quickly.

Is Alcohol a Form of Substance Abuse?

Alcohol and Substance Abuse: Yes, alcohol can be a form of substance abuse. Excessive or prolonged consumption of alcohol can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), characterized by an inability to control or cease alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It’s important to recognize and treat AUD to prevent long-term health complications.

What are the Effects of Alcohol and Controlled Substances?

Effects on Health and Wellbeing: Both alcohol and controlled substances can have profound effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. The impact varies based on the substance, amount, frequency of use, and the individual’s health. Common effects include addiction, mood changes, cognitive impairments, and in severe cases, organ damage or death.

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What is Scheduling?

Scheduling is a way of organizing data. Through scheduling, data is arranged and controlled into easily accessible quotas. The government provides rules and regulations for the various categories of drugs to which an individual may be exposed.

What are the 5 Types of Controlled Substances?

Five Schedules of Controlled Substances: Controlled substances are categorized into five schedules based on their potential for abuse and medicinal value:

  1. Schedule I: Drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse (e.g., heroin, LSD).
  2. Schedule II: Drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence (e.g., Vicodin, cocaine, methamphetamine).
  3. Schedule III: Drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence (e.g., anabolic steroids, testosterone).
  4. Schedule IV: Drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence (e.g., Xanax, Valium).
  5. Schedule V: Drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV (e.g., cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters).

The Drug Enforcement Agency determines the likelihood of abuse of a given drug or substance. The law is also used to determine the punishment for those found guilty of possession or use of illegal substances.

Understanding the Controlled Substances Act for Alcohol 

The Controlled Substances Act provides rules for how drugs can be produced, sold, and used in the United States of America. These rules govern both legal and illegal substances. Under the CSA, both the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration are empowered to engage in the classification of substances under the law. Generally, CSA regulations place restrictions on drugs with regards to their:

  • Manufacture
  • Possession
  • Importation
  • Use
  • Distribution

Drug Classes

The CSA is divided into five different schedules that regulate the various categories of drugs, based on DEA categorizations. However, CSA classifications differ from the typically known “classes” of drugs. The usual five classes of drugs are:

Conversely, drugs are placed into schedules based on their medical use, safety for consumption, and potential abuse by individuals across the board. Thus, a depressant and a hallucinogen may fall under the same category or schedule in the categorization done by the Act whereas, in the usual classes, a depressant and hallucinogen would fall under different classes.

is alcohol a controlled substance

Drug Schedules Under the Controlled Substances Act

Generally, Section 201(c), provides the factors which help determine what category a controlled substance will fall into. These are:

  • Its actual or relative potential for abuse
  • Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known
  • The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the substance
  • Its history and current pattern of abuse
  • The scope, duration, and significance of abuse
  • What, if any, risk there is to the public health
  • Its psychic or physiological dependence liability
  • Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter

The schedules are divided as follows:

  1. Schedule I Controlled Substances

This schedule deals with substances that have a very high risk of abuse. Under this category, the drugs and substances are currently without medical use and are not deemed suitable for use by individuals even under medical supervision. These kinds of substances include marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, hallucinogens, lysergic acid, and methaqualone, among others.

  1. Schedule II Controlled Substances

Schedule II of the Act deals with drugs and substances with a very high potential for abuse and misuse by individuals. However, the drugs under this schedule have some recognized medicinal value. This means that these substances can be accepted for medical use under “restricted” circumstances unlike Schedule I substances. Methamphetamine, Morphine, Cocaine, Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine, among others, fall in this category.

  1. Schedule III Controlled Substances

Schedule III includes substances with a moderate or low-level potential for abuse and accepted for medical use in the United States. Although they have a lower potential for abuse than the substances in Schedule I and II, abuse of Schedule III substances may lead to physical or psychological dependence. This schedule is home to substances like Codeine, anabolic steroids, Buprenorphine, and Ketamine.

  1. Schedule IV Controlled Substances

Schedule IV contains substances that are deemed generally acceptable for use in medical treatment in the United States. These drugs have less potential for abuse than the substances in Schedule III. Abuse of the drug may result in limited physical dependence or psychological dependence. Drugs that fall into this category include Darvon, Valium, Xanax, Lunesta, Tramadol, and Ativan, among others.

  1. Schedule V Controlled Substances

Substances scheduled here have the lowest potential for abuse. Consequently, these drugs are widely accepted for medical and medicinal purposes across the United States. The substances under this schedule usually deal with prescriptions to control specific health complications.

Understanding the Legal Implications of Controlled Substance Possession

Navigating Legalities: Possession of controlled substances is subject to strict regulations. Understanding the legal implications, which vary depending on the substance’s schedule classification, is crucial. Penalties can range from fines to imprisonment, underscoring the importance of legal awareness and compliance.

The Role of Prescription Medications as Controlled Substances

Prescriptions and Control: Many prescription medications fall under the category of controlled substances. This includes certain pain relievers, ADHD medications, and anti-anxiety drugs. Their use and distribution are tightly regulated to prevent abuse and trafficking, emphasizing the need for proper medical supervision and adherence to prescriptions.


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Why is Alcohol Not Considered a Controlled Substance?

Alcohol’s exclusion from the list of controlled substances in the CSA stems from its unique historical, cultural, and economic standing in American society. The Prohibition era of the 1920s, which sought to ban alcohol, highlighted the complexities surrounding its regulation. The subsequent repeal of Prohibition led to the establishment of a distinct set of regulations specifically for alcohol. This system focuses on its distribution, sale, and taxation rather than classifying it alongside drugs that have different historical and societal contexts.

Is Alcohol a Controlled Substance?

Although alcohol is similar in many ways to the substances regulated by the Controlled Substances Act, alcohol is not itself regulated by the Act. It’s fair to ask, Is alcohol a controlled substance? Alcohol fails to meet the criteria for controlled substances. Notwithstanding this fact, alcohol is regulated by federal law, the most prominent of which is the 21st Amendment, which repealed the national prohibition.

Under the 21st Amendment, individual States are given freedom over alcohol policy, including decisions such as:

  • Whether or not to allow the production and sale of alcohol in a state
  • Whether to permit the importation of alcohol into the state
  • The distribution of alcohol in the state and other related matters

Aside from the 21st Amendment, alcohol is also regulated by the Alcohol & Tobacco Laws under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) of 1986. In line with this law, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is responsible for regulating alcohol. Alcohol is still subject to regulatory control by a legal framework set aside for that specific purpose.

Treatment at Resurgence Behavioral Health 

Our trained specialists at Resurgence are available for more in-depth discussions of substances regulated in the Controlled Substances Act. With the level of increase in mental health-related issues, there is scarcely a better time to gain knowledge of these substances, their harmful potentials, and the safe means of their use.

At Resurgence, we are dedicated to filling the existing knowledge gap on substances and their use and abuse. This will help you make more informed decisions, thereby positively impacting on societal health in the long run.

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Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.