Understanding The Problem: Is Alcohol a Controlled Substance? - The Discovery House Los Angeles CA
Understanding The Problem: Is Alcohol a Controlled Substance?

Understanding The Problem: Is Alcohol a Controlled Substance?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you may think. The short answer is that alcohol is a controlled substance, but it is not classified as a schedule 1 drug. This means that it has some potential for abuse, but it is not considered to be as dangerous as other controlled substances. However, alcohol can still have a significant impact on your behavioral health. In this blog post, we will discuss the controlled substance classification of alcohol and how it affects your behavior.
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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.

What is AUD?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Drinking defines AUD as “a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.”

In other words, people with AUD have an intense urge to drink even when they know it is detrimental to their health. They are unable to control their alcohol consumption and experience negative emotions when they are not drinking.

AUD is a serious problem in the United States. According to the NSDUH, it caused 88,000 deaths in 2017 and cost the economy $249 billion dollars.

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.

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 heroin or harder drugs.

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

schedule 1 drug example heroin

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.

These drugs have a high potential for addiction and abuse. That’s why they are tightly controlled.

schedule 2 drug example cocaine

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 3 drugs example

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 4 drugs example

Schedule V Drugs

These drugs have major health benefits and have a 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.

schedule 5 drugs example codeine

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

Now that you know the different schedules of controlled substances, where does alcohol fit in?

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a controlled substance due to laws that were set.

The CSA does not include alcohol in any of its schedules. This is because alcohol is regulated by a different set of laws known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

The TTB is responsible for regulating the alcohol industry. It issues permits to manufacturers, collects taxes, and enforces labeling and advertising rules

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.

For example, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that commercial truck drivers and another commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators not have any alcohol in their system while driving.

The FMCSA defines alcohol as a controlled substance when it’s present in:

– your breath and the concentration of alcohol is 0.04% or greater;

– your blood and the concentration of alcohol is 0.04 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or greater;

– your urine and the concentration of alcohol is 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or greater.- your urine and the concentration of alcohol is 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or greater.

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’s life.

On the other hand, those against it argue that alcohol is not as addictive as other controlled substances and should therefore not be treated in the same manner.

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 comfortable with and plan on visiting the rehab center near you to help alcohol withdrawals.

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.

To avoid these symptoms, you will keep on drinking. If untreated, alcohol dependence can lead to death.

High dependence on alcohol can transform anyone’s life into a living nightmare.

Reclassification of Alcohol and Marijuana

In recent years, there have been calls to reclassify alcohol and marijuana.

The two substances share many similarities. For instance, they are both psychoactive drugs that can alter a person’s state of mind.

They are also both legal in many parts of the world and are widely used recreationally.

However, there are some key differences between the two substances. Alcohol is more addictive than marijuana and is more likely to lead to dependence.

It is also more harmful to the body, particularly when consumed in large quantities.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is not as addictive and does not have the same harmful effects on the body.

Some people argue that alcohol should be classified as a controlled substance because of its potential for addiction and harm. Others argue that marijuana should be reclassified because it is less harmful than alcohol.

The debate surrounding the classification of these substances is likely to continue for many years to come.


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.

reclassification of alcohol


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.

This will make marijuana more accessible for medicinal purposes and eventually be decriminalized.

The change in the classification of controlled substances is a long and tedious process.

It is only done when there is a significant amount of evidence to support the change.

We can only wait and see if alcohol will eventually be classified as a controlled substance. For now, it remains a highly addictive but not controlled substance.

marijuana reclassification

Understanding the Problem

If you are worried that you or a loved one may have a problem with alcohol, there are some signs to look out for.

Do you drink to avoid family or relationship conflict?

Have you been arrested for hurting someone while under the influence of alcohol?

Are you avoiding responsibilities so as to drink?

If any of these sound familiar, it may be time to seek help.

There are many resources available to those struggling with alcohol addiction, including detox centers and support groups. Talking to someone you trust about your drinking habits is a good first step in getting help. Alcohol dependence can be difficult to overcome on your own, but with the help of professionals and loved ones, recovery is possible.

Psychological Dependence on Alcohol

While physiological dependence is the body’s need for alcohol, psychological dependence is the mind’s need for alcohol.

Psychological dependence can be just as strong as physiological dependence, and can be the hardest part of overcoming addiction.

Psychological dependence is often characterized by cravings, or a strong desire to drink.

These cravings can be triggered by stress, anxiety, or even seeing someone else drink.

How Does Alcohol Cravings Work?

Cravings are the result of changes in the brain that happen when you drink alcohol.

Drinking alcohol causes your brain to release dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel happy and relaxed.

Over time, your brain gets used to this extra dopamine and starts to need it in order to feel normal.

This is why people who are trying to quit drinking often feel anxious, depressed, or irritable.

Cravings can be very strong, and may make you feel like you need to drink alcohol in order to function.

How Can I Deal with Alcohol Cravings?

There are a few things you can do to deal with alcohol cravings:

-Avoid places or activities that trigger your cravings.

-Distract yourself with something else when you have a craving.

-Talk to someone about your cravings and how you’re feeling.

-Remember why you’re trying to quit drinking.

Cravings are a normal part of recovery, but they don’t have to control you.

By understanding your cravings and knowing how to deal with them, you can take back control of your life and stay sober.

talking to someone about the cravings you feel

Alcohol Vs Other Controlled Substance

All addicting substances could be detrimental in high doses. However, controlled substances are more likely to be abused and have greater potential for overdose and death.

Controlled substances also tend to be more addictive, making it hard to quit using them.

Alcohol is no different.

However, alcohol is widely available and socially acceptable, making it easy to forget that it is a controlled substance.

This can make it harder to identify when someone has a problem with alcohol.


There are many detox and rehabilitation centers that can help you get through this difficult time.

The most important thing is to seek help and get the treatment you need.

Alcohol addiction is a serious problem that should not be taken lightly.

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

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, please seek help. We have many resources available to help you through this difficult time.

Speak with us confidentially about getting started on the road to recovery.