controlled substance

Primary tabs

A controlled substance is a drug, substance, or immediate precursor defined by the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Under the Controlled Substances Act, it is unlawful, inter alia, for any person to manufacture, sell, prescribe, distribute, dispense, administer, possess, have under their control, abandon, or transport a controlled substance, except as expressly provided by the Act.

A "controlled substance analog" is a substance the chemical structure of which is substantially similar to the chemical structure of a controlled substance. A controlled substance analog is treated the same as a controlled substance for purposes of the criminal law.

In addition to designating controlled substances, the Uniform Controlled Substances Act classifies each controlled substance in a list of Schedules. This list ranges from Schedule 5, which contains substances with medicinal uses and low potential for abuse, to Schedule 1, which contains substances with no medicinal uses and high potential for abuse. Each Schedule is subject to a different set of regulatory requirements. 

Some substances controlled under the Controlled Substances Act include:

  • Opiates, fentanyl derivatives, and opium derivatives, including heroin
  • Hallucinogenic substances, including LSD
  • Systemic depressants and other depressants
  • Some anti anxiety medications
  • Stimulants
  • Substances produced directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of vegetable origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis, including opiates, stimulants, and depressants
  • Narcotics
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Anticonvulsants

Special Cases

  • Although marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, many states have legalized it or allow for its use in specific circumstances
  • Under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, alcohol is not a controlled substance.

[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]