DEA drug classifications for Schedule I and Schedule II drugs are seriously flawed

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies drugs into five categories.  There are the formal definitions for Schedule I and Schedule II drugs.  There have been attempts to move marijuana from Schedule I to the Schedule II classification.  The Schedule I drugs are primarily hallucinogens.  Marijuana should never have been places in Schedule I according to the DEA’s classification definitions.

The only drugs listed in Schedule I that actually meets the Schedule I definitions are heroin and methaqualone.  The other drugs in Schedule I are not addicting, do not lead to psychological or chemical dependence, and do not cause death through overdose.   The Schedule I drugs are mostly hallucinogens, with some used ritually for thousands of years.

Heroin does have potential medical uses, and it does cause death.  It is joined by the Schedule II drugs, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), and fentanyl.  The increased focus on prescription opioids has reduced deaths from these drugs as the deaths from heroin doubled in two years.

Schedule I

“Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:

heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA – ecstasy, methaqualone (Quaaludes), and peyote

Schedule II

“Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are:

cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin

The DEA classifications make absolutely no sense based upon the drug effects on health of the users.  The Schedule I and Schedule II drugs should be inverted, with heroin staying in Schedule I.  It is obvious that the DEA classifiers are highly biased against hallucinogens.  To have marijuana as a Schedule I drug and all of the amphetamine (speed) drugs and opiates and opiate derivatives in Schedule II cannot be justified based upon the above definitions for classification.

With the exception of heroin, and methaqualone, current Schedule I drugs do not lead to addiction or death as normally used.  Marijuana does not meet the clinical classification of an addicting drug.  The hallucinogenic drugs do not meet the DEA’s own definitions of being dangerous and highly addicting

Heroin deaths have surged as pressure to control the Schedule II opioid drugs has been increased.  Governor John Kasich (R-OH) has taken pride in shutting down the pill mills in Ohio.  Unfortunately the deaths from heroin have now spread to Ohio small towns like Marion, Lancaster, Mount Vernon and Portsmouth.

The overall experience in increased overdoses is summarized in an article by Brandy Zadrozny in the Daily Beast on Oct. 2, 2014 titled Heroin Overdoses Double in Two Years.  The increased efforts to reduce the use of the Schedule II opioids have led to doubling the Schedule I heroin overdoses.  Most addicts start on the Schedule II opioids and then progress to heroin.  The relationship of heroin and opioid overdoses as described by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links higher opioid prices to more heroin deaths.

Around three-quarters of addicts get started on opioids through prescription drugs, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry this year. Users said they turned to heroin not only because it produced a similar high but because it was cheaper and more readily available.

Until the DEA changes its classifications, hallucinogens and marijuana have federal mandatory prison sentences that can exceed those for cocaine and methamphetamines.  The drugs listed in Schedule I and Schedule II need to be reevaluated and reclassified based upon their true impact on health of users and the potential risk for overdoses and addiction.

Getting marijuana reclassified to Schedule II would be a positive step in putting the enforcement effort on addicting and deadly drugs.  Getting the current Schedule II drugs classified into Schedule I puts the proper priority on these drugs for resources for education and rehabilitation.  The focus of Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General currently in office, is to prosecute those producing or using marijuana.

With Tom Price now out the door, Jeff Sessions has lost an ally in the fight to keep marijuana as a Schedule I drug.  It is time to e-mail, call or write your senators and representative to get the revision of the Schedule I and Schedule II classifications.

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