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Why certain drugs are controlled: What makes a drug illegal?

Drug charges are not something you want to have to deal with. You face heavy fines and penalties along with possible jail time or a prison sentence. Depending on the situation, you could end up with misdemeanor or felony charges.

Not all drugs are subject to laws to control them. For example, most people can buy and distribute items like acetaminophen or ibuprofen without a prescription. The same is not true for drugs such as heroin, Vicodin or others.

What makes a drug a controlled substance?

Part of what determines if a drug is a controlled substance is if it has a potential for addiction or abuse. For example, Vicodin is a controlled opiate. This drug has a potential for abuse and could lead to addiction if it's overused. There's a potential for overdosing as well.

Without a prescription, Vicodin is an illegal substance to have in your possession. If you do have a prescription, then it's legal for you to obtain and possess it, but it's not legal to abuse it, sell it or give it away.

How do you know if a drug is a controlled substance?

The government defines controlled substances through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This act creates five categories. Schedule I, II, III, IV and V drugs are all controlled in some way. Schedule I drugs are illegal in the United States, while the other drugs may have a purpose. For instance, a Schedule II drug, like Percocet, has a use as a painkiller following surgery or for those suffering from chronic pain.

Typically, it's easy to know if a drug is a controlled substance. Controlled substances require prescriptions or for you to buy them from a pharmacist directly. Comparatively, drugs that aren't controlled include those available for purchase at local stores without a prescription.

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