Sometimes it can be difficult to remember or understand all the different classifications of drugs of abuse. There are so many terms, like stimulant, depressant, controlled substance, narcotic opioid, or opiate.
With all the different classifications, types of substances, generic and name brand prescriptions, and street names of nearly every substance of abuse, it can get confusing.
When classifying substances of abuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has reference pages available that outline and describe every drug that is classified as a controlled substance, and what Schedule each drug is, and why.
DEA Controlled Substance Schedules
The DEA has a list of medications that are broken down into five different categories. The drugs in these categories are called controlled substances, and the categories are called Schedules.
Each of the five schedules contains substances based on criteria, such as; having a medical purpose, potential for abuse relative to other schedules, and how likely the substance is to result in dependence if it is abused.
Substances that are listed under this schedule have been determined to not have a medical purpose, are unsafe, and are at high risk for abuse and addiction.
These substances have a medical purpose, a high potential for abuse, and are high risk for dependence and addiction.
Some stimulant medications in this schedule are Adderall and Ritalin.
Substances that are placed in this category have less potential for abuse than the previous two schedules. Abusing these substances can lead to low physical dependence, but still have a high risk for psychological dependence.
Tylenol 3’s or 4’s and Suboxone are two examples of schedule III narcotics. Ketamine and anabolic steroids are schedule IIIN non-narcotics.
These substances included in a schedule IV have a low risk for abuse compared to Schedule III substances.
This schedule has substances that have a lower potential for abuse than the previous schedule. These substances are basically prepared medications with limited amounts of specific narcotics.
A specific example of this is cough syrup that contains codeine, like Phenergan or Robitussin AC.
What Is A Stimulant?
A stimulant is a drug that people abuse for the euphoric and performance-enhancing effects. Stimulants increase activity in the body, energy levels, and better attention-span. A stimulant acts on the central nervous system.
Stimulants increase dopamine levels in the brain, which make stimulants very addictive when abused. Prescription stimulants that are at a high risk for abuse include Ritalin and Adderall.
What Is a Depressant?
A depressant acts to depress or slow down the central nervous system. Depressants include medications that help manage anxiety symptoms, pain, sleep, seizures, and muscle spasms.
Many depressants have a potential of abuse, dependence, and addiction. This is because they activate the pleasure center of the brain. Because the pleasure center makes a person “feel good”, they crave that feeling and begin to crave the drug that brought the initial euphoric feeling.
There are several prescription depressants, such as:
- barbiturates (Deconal, Nembutal, phenobarbital)
- benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan)
- sedative-hypnotics (Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta)
- opioids (morphine, Vicodin, oxycodone)
There are illicit depressants as well, including Rohypnol and GHB, known as “date rape” drugs.
Heroin is also a depressant.
What Is An Opioid?
Opioids (also called Narcotics) are a group of depressants that are derived from a specific poppy plant, or synthetically derived to work in a similar way in the body.
The majority of opioids are highly addictive and should only be taken as prescribed, and for as short of a time as possible. Even when taken as prescribed people can become physically dependent on the drug, and need help tapering doses to try to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Heroin is an opioid (narcotic).
Heroin Is Not A Stimulant
To recap, heroin is not a stimulant. Heroin is a depressant, an opioid, and a narcotic. Heroin is a dangerous, highly addictive substance that does not have a medical purpose. Heroin is a Schedule I Controlled Substance as determined by the DEA.
Treating A Heroin Addiction
Abusing heroin even one time can open the door to addiction. Heroin is a powerful substance that can take over a person’s life and leave them a shell of their former self.
If you or someone you love is battling the terrible disease of addiction, please reach out to our specialists. They can help you locate a treatment facility that offers supervised detox, inpatient rehab, medication-assisted treatment options, and a strong aftercare program.
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- DEA Diversion Control Division - Controlled Substance Schedules
- DEA - Depressants
- DEA - Narcotics
- DEA - Stimulants
- National Institute on Drug Abuse - Commonly Used Drugs Charts
- National Institute on Drug Abuse - What classes of prescription drugs are commonly abused