The DEA enforces The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which classifies opioids and other potentially addictive or dangerous substances (but not alcohol or nicotine) on a schedule ranging from 1 to 5. (Marijuana is on this list as a Schedule 1 substance.)
Schedule 1 opioids are illegal to prescribe because they have no acceptable medicinal value or have a high potential for abuse (http://1.usa.gov/1HJrCwD). Heroin is an example.
Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 opioids are legal to prescribe by treatment providers (such as physicians and dentists) with certification from the DEA. Higher numbers are indicative of a lower potential of abuse or lower potency. For example, oxycodone and hydrocodone are Schedule 2 opioids, whereas a small amount of codeine in a cough syrup is a Schedule 5 opioid.
Schedule 1 opioids are available for research with special government approval (http://bit.ly/1bNznbB). Schedule 2 opioids require a written prescription and are not refillable. Schedule 3, 4 and 5 opioids can be called or faxed to a pharmacy. Five refills for up to six months are allowed if authorized by the physician.
A list of compounds and medications in each of the five schedules is available at http://1.usa.gov/1PSIudm.
Note: States and localities may have additional or alternative regulations.
The DEA works to reduce diversion of drugs. Diversion means that a drug winds up in the hands of someone who should not have it and is illegal. Drug dealers, by definition, divert drugs. Legal penalties for diversion can be severe. Diversion c...
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...h once available only as a rapidly acting formulation, long-acting morphine products are frequently prescribed to treat chronic pain. Morphine is the most prominent and active ingredient in opium.
Morphine is as easy to abuse as heroin and carries the same risks as heroin. To reduce the potential for abuse, the newer product Embeda adds naltrexone to the formulation. Naltrexone will induce withdrawal symptoms if the product is first chewed or injected. However, the vast majority of morphine products do not contain an abuse-deterrent medication.
Historical Note: Morphine was isolated from opium in 1805 and touted as a cure for opium addiction. Heroin was derived from morphine in 1874 and touted as a cure for morphine addiction. Methadone was synthesized during the Second World War and is an effective treatment for morphine and heroin addiction (http://bit.ly/1mifr6k).
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