Understanding The Problem: Is Alcohol A Controlled Substance?

Understanding The Problem: Is Alcohol A Controlled Substance?

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 86.4% of American adults admitted to having consumed alcohol at least once in their lives. Of this percentage, 15 million people have alcohol use disorder(AUD).

This shows the extent to which alcohol has been accepted in social circles. If you find it hard to stop taking alcohol despite the obvious social and health consequences, this article is for you.

Read on to understand the answer to the question “is alcohol a controlled substance?”

Is Alcohol A Controlled Substance?

Knowing more about alcohol policies will make you understand why alcohol is socially acceptable despite its adverse effects.

For a substance to be termed as ‘controlled’, it simply means that the government regulates the manufacturing, distribution, possession, and use of the specific drug. These substances are grouped into five groups known as schedules.

Possession of any controlled substance without a prescription is against the law and can result in a lengthy prison sentence.

Schedule 1 Drugs

These substances have no health benefits and have a high potential for addiction. Mostly, they are sold on the streets and are the least safe of all drugs.

Heroin, Bath salts, LSD, ecstasy, and marijuana are common schedule 1 drugs. Recent studies show that marijuana doesn’t have a high potential for addiction but instead has a high dependence rate.

Another widely spread theory is that usage of marijuana leads to the usage of other drugs. However, this has been contradicted by studies showing that less than 1% of marijuana users have tried or heroine or harder drugs.

This has sparked the debate on whether marijuana should be removed from the list. What do you think?

Schedule II Drugs

These drugs differ from schedule I drugs in that they have some health benefits and are actually prescribed by a doctor.

You might still find some being sold on the streets, though. The most common schedule II drugs include cocaine, opium, Adderall, Oxycodone, and Ritalin. 

Schedule III Drugs

These drugs have a number of health benefits but have a moderate potential for dependency. Despite being described to a number of people suffering from medical conditions, unlicensed selling of the drug is illegal.

Common schedule III drugs include ketamine, testosterone, and anabolic steroids

Schedule IV Drugs

These drugs have health benefits but have a limited potential for abuse. They are mostly prescribed to people suffering from anxiety. They include Xanax, Valium, Ambien, Rohypnol, and Somas.

Schedule V Drugs

These drugs have major health benefits and have low potential for dependency or abuse.

Mostly, they are prescribed for serious colds and coughs. Some contain dangerous levels of codeine and can’t be sold over the counter.

Examples include lacosamide, pregabalin, cough medicine with under 200mg of codeine per dose and pyrovalerone.

Alcohol: Controlled Or Regulated?

No, alcohol is not a controlled substance, rather, it’s a regulated one.

Therefore, it’s not part of any scheduling protocol by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

However, under the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) regulations, heavy machinery should not be driven under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction

In the recent past, there have been numerous debates surrounding the question of whether to add alcohol to the list of controlled substances but none has been successful.

Those supporting the notion argue that alcohol can be highly addictive and have adverse effects on someone life.

If you or your loved one exhibit the following signs, then you are probably addicted to alcohol.

1. You are avoiding and responsibilities so as to drink
2. Being arrested for hurting someone while under the influence of alcohol
3. Using alcohol to avoid family and relationship conflicts

Talk to someone you feel less judged by and plan on visiting the detox center near you to aid in drug withdrawal.

Alcohol Dependence

Due to its brain-altering effects, alcohol is widely abused. Its dependence comes easy since it is more socially acceptable compared to other drugs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance dependence is defined as a condition characterized by a strong craving for alcohol and continued use despite obvious harm. At this point, you have lost the ability to stop drinking.

Your body gets used to drinking so much that the moment you stop drinking; you begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms. They include sweating, anxiety, shakiness, and nausea.

High dependence on alcohol can transform anyone into a homeless drug addict.

Reclassification of Alcohol and Marijuana


Alcohol may be used as an alternative antiseptic and pain reliever but other than that has no tangible health benefits. It is highly addictive and should be classified under schedule I drugs.

Debates pushing for this notion may fail to be successful due to the societal impact alcohol has. More so, the drugs may be under government regulation but vary from state to state.

It becomes impossible to get a uniform opinion.

Alcohol has been used in almost every culture to celebrate good times and deal with the bad times. Its social significance makes it hard to impose hard laws on the substance.

It also generates a lot of income for the country to make it a resourceful venture. Controlling it would imply less consumption and eventually low sales.

It is possible that we recognize this and don’t want to change. For now, alcohol remains a regulated but not controlled substance.


On the other hand, more research is being conducted on the medicinal attributes of marijuana. It is likely that marijuana will be reclassified to schedule III drugs.

Understanding the Problem

Diversification of policies and beliefs will ensure non-stop debates on whether or not alcohol should be classified under controlled substances. Nonetheless, the information outlined above is sufficient to answer the question: Is alcohol a controlled substance?

Check out this page to understand more about alcohol treatment programs.

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