In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion around “Schedule X Drugs.” Depending on the context, these compounds can sound like either insignificant or the greatest threats to public health and wellness. While any compound, if misused, can be dangerous, Schedule 5 drugs are usually those with the lowest potential for abuse, and the most likely to be prescribed for general use across the nation.

 In general, Schedule 5 drugs are low-risk drugs that are often used in over-the-counter medication or prescription medication. Compared to Schedule 4 drugs, they are less likely to be habit-forming or to carry a high risk of addiction. Because of this, these drugs are usually more widely available. Most cough syrups and topical pain relief drugs fall into this category and are generally considered to be mostly benign. However, as always, there is a potential risk of addiction associated with any painkiller.

US Drug Schedule

Implemented under President Nixon in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act ranks drugs on a scale of I to V, with I being the most dangerous and V being the least likely to cause addictions or other damaging health conditions. The three criteria that determine how a substance is rated include:

Use: How a drug is used plays a significant role in how “acceptable” it is under the CSA. If a drug has a widely-known medical use, it is far more likely to be rated below the highest level. Drugs like fentanyl and ketamine have a high potential for abuse, but because their medical value outweighs that risk, they are not considered to be the most dangerous level of drugs. 

Abuse: If a drug is very easily abused for recreational purposes, it will most likely be ranked higher. As mentioned above, recreational drugs with a substantial medicinal value may be moved to a lower ranking, but the more likely a drug is to be abused, the higher it will most likely rank.

Safety: Drugs that carry a very high risk of addiction are considered to be the most dangerous, and are therefore ranked at the highest level of the CSA, Schedule I.

Schedule 5 Drugs

Some Examples

Based on the criteria listed above, Schedule V or Schedule 5 drugs are compounds that carry a low risk of abuse and addiction and a great deal of medicinal value. Some of the more commonly-used Schedule V drugs include:

  • Codeine Mixtures: While codeine itself is listed as a Schedule I drug, various mixtures of codeine and other compounds in deficient concentrations are safe for use as Schedule V drugs. Several cough syrups and over-the-counter pain medications fall under this category and are generally considered to be safe to take regularly.
  • Cannabinoids: Like codeine, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, but cannabidiol is a marijuana-derived formula that is often referred to as “Epidiolex.” This compound is used to treat seizures and is considered sufficiently benign to be listed as a Schedule V drug.
  • Other Opioids: Generally, the opioids listed under Schedule V are diluted or extremely “watered-down” with other compounds, but some of these drugs include weak concentrations of opium and ethylmorphine. Again, the key to their safe use is explained by the meager amount of each compound present in a medically-approved and low-risk mixture of other drugs.

How They’re Used

Most Schedule V drugs are found in the form of over-the-counter medication or other mild forms of topical relief that often do not need a prescription. As mentioned above, these compounds are valued for their ability to utilize the curative properties of some harsher substances without running the same risk for addiction and abuse. For this reason, many Schedule V drugs are used for the treatment of the elderly or other individuals who would be more at risk of potential side effects from more potent drugs.

 Many Schedule V drugs are often used as pain relief or mild sedatives. Again, because they do not carry the side effects typically associated with stronger compounds, they are a popular choice for individuals with mild to moderate pain. Unfortunately, the stronger the drug, the higher its risk of creating addictions or carrying unpleasant side effects, which means that Schedule V drugs are not often considered to be potent pain medications.

 Another common use for Schedule V drugs is found in cough medication. Small amounts of codeine and similar compounds can help suppress the cough reflex and provide temporary relief. Finally, some Schedule V drugs are used as antidiarrheal compounds during a period of internal distress.

Dangers and Concerns

While Schedule V drugs are relatively safe for use, they still can be misused. Any compound, if used improperly or taken in an improper dose, can potentially be dangerous, and Schedule V drugs are no exception.

 If you are using a Schedule V compound like cough syrup or a mild analgesic (pain reliever), make sure you use it only in the manner instructed either by your primary care physician or by the packaging of the drug’s container.

 In addition, be careful only to take the recommended dosage of any compound. While Schedule V drugs present minimal side effects, there can still be complications from overuse. If you find yourself suffering from indigestion or other some other form of gastrointestinal distress, consult your primary care physician, as this is one of the main side effects of most Schedule V drugs.

 Finally, if you struggle with addiction or know someone who is dealing with this condition, you are not alone. There are so many outlets for help and healing available today, and there is a world of resources available at your convenience, no matter what it is that you’re struggling with. Reach out to a trusted friend or health care advisor today.

 If you have been prescribed a Schedule V drug by your primary care physician, use it as prescribed. Schedule V drugs are as close as the pharmaceutical world can get to a “perfect” set of compounds, thanks to their low risk for addiction and limited side effects. As always, you should take any prescribed medication only in the recommended dosage and keep an eye out for any adverse effects. If no such complications present themselves, however, you should be perfectly able to use the Schedule V or similar medication that your doctor has prescribed for you without any real issues.