Overview of Controlled Substances and Precursor Chemicals


Controlled Substances Act of 1970

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) – Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 – is the federal U.S. drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, and other chemicals is regulated. It places all substances which were, in some manner, regulated under existing federal law into one of five schedules (i.e., I – V). This placement is based upon a substance’s medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) implements the CSA and may prosecute violators of these laws at both the domestic and international level. Individuals who order, handle, store, and distribute controlled substances must be registered with the DEA to perform these functions. They must maintain accurate inventories, records and security of the controlled substances. Components of the CSA may be viewed in Title 21 United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act.

California Uniform Controlled Substances Act
California Uniform Controlled Substances Act


Definitions

Controlled Substances

Drug or other substance, or immediate precursor, regulated under the Federal Controlled Substances Act and the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act to prevent illicit abuse. Drugs are categorized according to a substance’s medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability by designated schedules, I-V.

USC only allows the use of schedule II-V drugs, unless special permission has been granted by the DEA and USC Office of Compliance. Contact the CS Program Manager regarding inquiries about use of schedule I drugs.

 

Precursor Chemicals

Chemicals and solvents regulated by the DEA, State of California Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General (CA-DOJ) in order to prevent the illicit manufacture of controlled substances.

These listed chemicals and solvents are categorized on two DEA regulated lists, List I and List II, and the California DOJ precursor chemicals list. List I typically represents precursor reagents while List II represents solvents that can be used in the synthesis and purification of controlled substances.


Summary of DEA Schedules I-V

Schedule I

Schedule I drugs have high potential for abuse. These drugs have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, marijuana) is still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA, even though some U.S. states, including California, have legalized marijuana for personal, recreational use, or for medical use.

Schedule II

Schedule II drugs have high potential for abuse. These drugs have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. Abuse of these drugs may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Schedule III

Schedule III drugs have potential for abuse less than Schedules I and II drugs. These drugs have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse of the drug may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

Schedule IV

Schedule IV drugs have low potential for abuse relative to Schedule III drugs. These drugs have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse of these drugs may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to Schedule III drugs.

Schedule V

Schedule V drugs have low potential for abuse relative to schedule IV drugs. These drugs have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse of these drugs may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to Schedule IV drugs.


Lists of Regulated Substances

Follow the links below to review regulated controlled substances and precursor chemicals.

Controlled Substances Lists – Schedule I-V

Regulated Precursor Chemicals List I and II

California List of Precursor Chemicals


USC’s Requirements

Principal Investigators (PI) at USC whose research involves the use of controlled substances are required to apply for a DEA registration. This enables the PI to purchase, store, and use controlled substances (CS) at USC. EH&S will conduct an onsite visit with the DEA Registrant to ensure all storage and security measures have been met prior to the DEA’s scheduled appointment. Once granted, a copy of your DEA license must be forwarded to the Environmental Health and Safety Office at ehs-cs@usc.edu. Refer to the USC EH&S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Registration & Renewal Fact Sheet for more detailed information.

In addition to acquiring a DEA registration, researchers and practitioners are also required to enroll in USC’s Controlled Substances Use Authorization (CSUA) Program. Refer to the USC EH&S Controlled Substances Use Authorization (CSUA) Program Guide Sheet for an overview of the information.