Drug classifications are determined depending on the reason they are being classified. Some classes are more well-known than others. Chemical structures, chemical activity, mechanisms of action, mode of action, therapeutic class, physical dependence and psychological dependence are all divisions in which drugs are a separated into classes. The legal classifications are the most well-known of all the class divisions devised for drugs. They are based on their level of physical and psychological dependence.
All the other divisions into which drugs are classed, are used for pharmacological purposes. The chemical structure divides medications by which chemicals are used in their composition as well as which chemical activity they stimulate. The mechanism of action divides medications based on the activity that occurs at the biological target on the molecular level. Mode of action divides medications by how they work on the biological target on the cellular level. The therapeutic class divides medications by the therapeutic purpose. These divisions of classifications are perhaps more important than those devised for legal purposed, but not as commonly referred.
When the term drug classifications is uttered, those based for legal purposes is typically what is being referred. It is important to note that not only the legal community refers to these classes. Several medical professionals, especially those who deal with drug addiction, refer to these classes as well. This division is based on the potential level of physical and psychological dependence that a patient could develop taking the medications within the class. If a drug or medication does not carry the potential ability to create a physical and or psychological dependence it is not listed within this division. Drugs and medications in this division are further classified based on the physical and psychological effect of the medication or drug. The classes are referred to as schedules in this division.
Schedule V and Schedule IV are reserved for the medications and drugs with the least potential for physical and psychological dependency. Each schedules characteristics are based off of the previous schedule. For example, Schedule V drugs are determined by the level of dependency compared to those in Schedule IV. The lower the potential for dependency the lower the schedule the drug is listed.
Drugs and medications that present the biggest potential for addiction, dependency, and abuse are reserved for Schedule I, II, and III. Schedule III drugs are still commonly prescribed, but the prescriptions are monitored and the possession of these drug without a prescription is a crime. Schedule II drugs and medications are still prescribed for medical use. The prescriptions for these drugs, however, are highly regulated and restricted. This schedule of drugs has a very high potential for dependency, but the therapeutical value has been determined to outweigh this potential risk. With that being said, a patient who is prescribed these drugs or medications is monitored closely. Schedule I drugs have such a high level of dependency that no therapeutical value has been determined to outweigh the dependency risk. Therefore, these drugs are also illegal to administer for medical reasons.
Drug classes are tools that help laymen and professionals alike.