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What is a controlled substance?

The stereotype for someone facing drug charges is often a homeless, desperate person who has an uncontrollable addiction. While there are people in Tennessee who meet this description, there are many others who don't. Quite often, it is everyday people who get mixed up with drugs and the judicial system.

Some people get started down the wrong path through experimentation with recreational drugs. But others become dependent when a doctor prescribes prescription painkillers after a serious injury. These painkillers are legal, but only when they are properly prescribed and lawfully possessed.

Definition of a controlled substance

Controlled substances are drugs that can lead to physical and/or psychological dependence. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies these drugs into five schedules. Generally speaking, the drugs in Schedule I have no currently accepted medical use. Drugs listed in the other schedules do have some medical uses. Tennessee law concerning controlled substances mirror those of the federal schedules, though there are two additional schedules: Schedule VI covering marijuana, THC and its synthetic equivalents, and Schedule VII covering butyl nitrite.

In both the federal and Tennessee schedules, the lower schedule number, the more potential for abuse. Some of these drugs, such as medications, are legal to obtain and use under specific circumstances due to their medical benefits, whereas others are always illegal because they are only harmful.

Examples of controlled substances

Common low-level controlled substances are cough syrup with limited codeine and anxiety medicine. Moderate substances include pain meds and anabolic steroids. Examples of high-level drugs that are legal under certain circumstances are morphine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, opium and opioids (such as OxyContin). Those that are illegal under federal and Tennessee law include:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • LSD
  • Ecstasy
  • Peyote

Trouble with controlled substances

Most people know that Schedule I drugs are dangerous and illegal, but they may not be as familiar with the others. Under Tennessee law, manufacture, delivery or intent to deliver substances on all schedules are felony crimes. Simple possession of marijuana and other drugs such as prescription medications may be charged as misdemeanor crimes, depending on circumstances.

Taking a friend or relative's prescription painkillers or purchasing listed controlled painkillers on the street may result in criminal charges. Although these actions are not on the same level as trafficking, the law may still treat you harshly, so it is imperative to seek representation from an experienced attorney.

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