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Identification and Risks of Common Street Drugs

drugs

As a resident, parent, or just a caring citizen, it's valuable to know a little about the illegal drug trade that has become a common part of life in many metropolitan areas. From prescription drugs to PCP-laced cigarettes and everything in between, the street-level drug dealer may be active in your community without you even knowing it. Below are some of the most common drugs in Washington, DC. Click on each to download a brochure in PDF format that describes the risks of using each.

New Trends in Drug Use

While many of the drugs being used by young people and habitual abusers are familiar to most people, if only by name, there are others that may not be as easily recognizable. The following are some of the latest drugs and drug-like products that parents should know about.

  • K-2/"Spice" -- a synthetic marijuana-like substance made from shredded dried plants and chemicals
  • Bath salts -- a synthetic powder that can be snorted like cocaine and has similar stimulant effects
  • DXM --  the active ingredient in many OTC cough and cold medications, taken in large quantities the chemical has the potential to cause effects similar to ketamine or PCP

The Controlled Substances Act


mehanecokeChapter 13 of Title 21 of the US Code provides the foundation for the nation’s laws related to illegal substances and drugs. It is commonly known as the Controlled Substances Act, or "CSA" and divides drugs into five "schedules" (I, II, III, IV, and V) based on the degree of severity of addiction and abuse, medical usage, and dependence associated with it.

  • Schedule I: The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and lacks the accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
  • Schedule II: The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse, but has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. However, abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
  • Schedule III: The drug or other substance has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II; it has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. However, abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
  • Schedule IV: The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III. It has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III.
  • Schedule V: The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule IV. It has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule IV.

Most of the drugs that are common in the illegal drug trade are found in Schedule I (including MDMA, LSD, heroin, GHB, cannabis) or Schedule II (cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, phencyclidine [PCP], and opium/opiates such as morphine and oxycodone). To learn more about the CSA, visit the DEA's Drug Scheduling page.

More Drug Identfication Resources

For additional resources on drug awareness and identification, visit the following: