Schedule 3 Drugs – What are they & What Does Schedule 3 Mean

In the United States, schedule 3 drugs are controlled under the administration of the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 along with any subsequent amendments to the Act where substances have been added, moved from one schedule to another, or eliminated from control.

Schedule 3 substances include those drugs or substances and the mixtures, compounds, materials, preparations containing quantities of substances under control, and immediate precursors that:

  • Have an abuse potential less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II.
  • Have a currently acceptable medical use for treatment in the United States.
  • Have the potential for moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

What is the Controlled Substances Act?

Schedule 3 Drugs

The drugs on Schedule 3 have some accepted medical use.

Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970 to place all substances being regulated in the existing federal law under a single system of controls for both narcotic and psychotropic drugs. The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), was charged with enforcing the laws under the CSA until 1973 when President Nixon designated the Drug Enforcement Administration with authoritative control.

The CSA places the substances into one of five schedules according to their dangers and abuse potential, legitimate medical value, and the potential for dependence. Substances under schedule 1 have no medical value and the highest potential risks for abuse and dependence. Schedule V drugs have a low potential for abuse and consist mainly of preparations with limited quantities of controlled substances listed under other schedules. Schedule 3 falls right in the middle.

The Dedicated Process of Scheduling Drugs under the CSA

There are hundreds of drug brands being manufactured and introduced annually along with the ever increasing phenomenon of illegal drugs showing up on the street and the DEA is tasked with controlling the importation, trafficking, distribution, and possession of thousands of chemicals that can be abusive or pose health risks to society. DEA reference codes are assigned to the chemicals as a way of tracking their movements between manufacturers, distributors, pharmacists, hospitals, practitioners, and researchers.

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Beyond the new name brands, compounds, structured chemical changes, salts, isomers and salts of such isomers, it becomes quite confusing to those of us who have no medical or scientific knowledge of sorts. CSA schedules are continuously being revised as recreational drug abuse and addictions continue to increase and known hazards continue to present themselves.

Schedule 3 Drug Types

There are 6 basic drug types included under the current CSA schedule 3 list and includes the salts, isomers and salts of such isomers whenever the existence of such salts, isomers and salts of such isomers is possible.


Stimulants listed under schedule 3 are those drugs that have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system (CNS) unless otherwise excepted or listed in another schedule, such as cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamine which are listed under schedule 2.

Examples of schedule 3 stimulants can include:

  • Mixtures, compounds, or preparations that contain schedule 2 stimulants or derivatives in combination with other non-controlled substances and typically containing a lesser quantity of the schedule 2 substance.
  • Prescriptions appetite suppressants that are closely related to amphetamines such as


Depressants listed under schedule 3 are those drugs having a depressant effect on the central nervous system unless otherwise excepted or included in another schedule such as benzodiazepines which are listed under schedule 2.

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Example of schedule 3 depressants may include:

  • Sedative- hypnotics and barbiturates or barbiturate derivatives such as Nembutal and Seconal
  • Lysergic Acid – LSD (listed as a depressant under the CSA although it has hallucinogenic effects.)
  • Dissociative anesthetics including Ketamine and Tiletamine
  • Zolazapam is used in Veterinary medicaine and is structurally similar to benzodiazepines although other benzodiazepines are listed as under schedule 2.

Hallucinogenic Substances

Hallucinogen Substances include those approved medications containing THC such as Marinol or dronabinol for the control of nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy, although other THC drugs are listed under schedule 1.


Nalorphine is a mixed opioid agonist and antagonist used to reverse opioid overdose.

Narcotic Drugs

Narcotic drugs under schedule 3 includes only those preparations, mixtures, and compounds of opiates or opioids in limited quantities of milligrams per dosage unit unless specifically excepted or listed in another schedule which most narcotic drugs are.

Examples of schedule 3 narcotic drugs may include:

  • Codeine or dihydrocodeine containing no more than 90 milligrams per dosage unit and combined with analgesics or non-narcotic ingredients such as acetaminophen in Tylenol 3 or in cough preparations.
  • Dihydrocodeinone+papaverine or noscapine in less than 15 milligrams per dosage unit.
  • Buprenorphine – Suboxone or Subutex

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic Steroids listed in schedule 3 are drugs that are hormonal substances chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, corticosteroids, and dehydroepiandrosterone) unless specifically excepted or listed in another schedule.

Examples of schedule 3 anabolic steroids may include:

  • Body building drugs
  • Testosterone

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the Take-Away

The drug schedules help law enforcement and citizens understand the dangers of drugs and their relative risks. The substances in Schedule 3 are not as dangerous as those in schedules 1 and 2.