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Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance (Definition & Statistics for 2024)

Being under the influence of a controlled substance means that a person’s physical or mental abilities are impaired due to the consumption of a drug that is regulated by law. This impairment can affect a person’s ability to operate a vehicle or machinery safely, make sound judgments, or perform tasks that require focus and coordination.
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What is a Controlled Substance?

According to the UCLA research, a controlled substance is generally a drug or chemical whose manufacture, possession, or use is regulated by a government, such as illicitly used drugs or prescription medications that are designated by law [1].

Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), drugs and substances are categorized into five schedules based on their accepted medical use and potential for abuse or dependence.

The scheduling is dependent on the drug’s chemical structure and properties. The CSA’s list of scheduled substances is updated annually and describes the basic or parent chemical, but does not include all possible variations such as salts, isomers, and derivatives.

What is the Controlled Substance Act?

According to a 2023 study by the National Library of Medicine, the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) is a statute establishing a federal policy to regulate the manufacturing, distributing, importing/exporting, and using of regulated substances [2]

It provides the framework for categorizing these substances and establishes the legal basis for their regulation.

Enacted by the 91st United States Congress in 1970 and signed into law by President Richard Nixon, the CSA aimed to consolidate previous federal drug laws and enable federal law enforcement agencies to combat drug abuse more effectively.

Controlled Substance Act Schedules

Controlled substances are classified into different schedules by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) based on their potential for abuse and dependence.

The drugs with the highest abuse, and potential for psychological and/or physical dependence, are placed in Schedule I, and those with the lowest abuse potential are in Schedule V.

Here are some examples of drugs in each schedule:

  • Schedule I: Heroin, marijuana, LSD, PCP, crack cocaine
  • Schedule II: Morphine, cocaine, oxycodone (OxyContin®), methylphenidate (Ritalin®), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®)
  • Schedule III, IV, or V: Acetaminophen with codeine (Tylenol® No.3), paregoric, diazepam (Valium®), alprazolam (Xanax®), pentazocine (Talwin®)

What is Considered “Under the Influence”?

The term “under the influence” pertains to any impairment, no matter how slight, of an individual’s ability to safely perform a particular activity due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or a combination thereof.

When someone is under the influence of alcohol, they have consumed a sufficient amount of an intoxicating beverage, regardless of the quantity, to negatively affect their actions, reactions, behavior, physical movements, or mental processes.

This impairment noticeably reduces their capacity to operate a motor vehicle. Being under the influence of alcohol is a key component of a charge for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

What is a Controlled Substance DUI?

A DUI charge involving controlled substances refers to driving under the influence of drugs scheduled by the DEA. This includes substances like heroin or cocaine, which can result in severe penalties such as imprisonment, fines, and license suspension.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) emphasizes that driving under the influence of any substance, whether legal or illegal, is illegal nationwide. It endangers both the driver and others on the road, leading to strict penalties under controlled substance laws.

These charges resemble those for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, unlike alcohol, there isn’t a specific threshold for the amount of a controlled substance that triggers criminal charges. Any amount that impairs driving, including legally prescribed medications, can result in a DUI charge.

Due to the broad application of controlled substance laws, individuals may face arrest, charges, and convictions for controlled substance DUIs even if they were not under the influence of the drug at the time of their arrest.

These classifications help regulate the manufacturing, distribution, and use of these substances in the United States.

Substance Abuse Statistics

  • Among Americans aged 12 years and older, 37.309 million were current illegal drug users (used within the last 30 days) as of 2020.
  • 13.5% of Americans 12 and overused drugs in the last month, a 3.8% increase year-over-year (YoY).
  • 59.277 million or 21.4% of people 12 and over have used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.
  • 138.543 million or 50.0% of people aged 12 and over have illicitly used drugs in their lifetime.
  • Usership among people aged 12 and over is down 0.4% YoY.
  • 138.522 million Americans 12 and over drink alcohol.
  • 28.320 million or 20.4% of them have an alcohol use disorder.
  • 57.277 million people use tobacco or nicotine products (vape).
  • 25.4% of illegal drug users have a drug disorder.
  • 24.7% of those with drug disorders have an opioid disorder; this includes prescription pain relievers or “pain killers” and heroin).

Source: [3].

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