Why is my ADHD medication a 'schedule 2' controlled substance?

This is why you have to make that pharmacy trip. Every. Single. Month.

black and white photo of a variety of pills on a surface. Over the pills in bright red is a stamp that reads, "schedule ii"

Why is Adderall considered a schedule II drug?

If you have a prescription for Adderall or another ADHD stimulant, you know that refilling it can be an annoying process, to say the least. Since it’s a controlled substance, you can’t refill it online; you have to actually speak to a pharmacist. (I know. Awful, right?) Laws vary based on where you live, but you may only be able to receive three months worth of your prescription before needing to see your doctor again. And for some people, they have to do this every month. These extra steps are necessary because Adderall (and Vyvanse, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Ritalin) is classified as a controlled substance. 

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. This  is for informational and educational purposes only. Do not disregard medical or professional advice, or delay seeking it, because of something you read on this website. 

Too Long; Didn’t Read

Adderall and other stimulant medications are classified as Schedule II drugs because, while they have medical benefits, they also have a high potential for dependency and abuse. Someone who doesn’t have ADHD can technically 'get high' off of Adderall, and it’s not hard to become addicted to it. However, it is controlled for a reason. There are serious side effects—some of which are life-threatening—that can arise when taking stimulant medications, even if you're taking the amount you were prescribed.

What are controlled substances?

Substance control is designed to protect people. Limits on prescription drug procedures and sales are thanks to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This act manages and classifies the distribution of medications and allows the United States government to regulate drugs. 

The controlled substance act lists chemicals used to manufacture controlled substances, and outlines legal—and illegal—drug manufacturing, distribution, and possession. The act also places drugs into classifications, or schedules, based on their risk for abuse and whether there are approved medical uses for the drug. 

Different drug schedules

usa drug schedules. schedule 1 is not for medical use, and has high potential for abuse and addiction. Examples are LSD, peyote, and ecstasy. Schedule 2 can be used for medical purposes, with restrictions as it has high potential for abuse and addiction. examples are adhd medications, vicodin, cocaine, and oxycodone. schedule 3 4 and 5 can all be used for medical purposes; 3 and  have moderate potential and 5 has mild potential. examples of schedule 3: ketamine, codeine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone. schedule 4 examples are xanax, soma, ambien, talwin, and valium. schedule 5 examples are robitussin ac, motofen, lomotil, and lyrica
Drug schedules in the USA as of August 2022. Please note the legend at the bottom of the chart to identify the potentials for abuse and other details. Source: DEA.

Is Adderall a controlled substance?

Substances identified as Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and dependence and higher numbers represent less potential for abuse and dependence. Adderall and other ADHD medications are classified as schedule II drugs, meaning they “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Why is my ADHD medication controlled?

While the exact cause of ADHD isn’t known, experts believe it’s linked to lower activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Taking ADHD medications like Adderall stimulates this brain area. For people with ADHD, these medications are intended to have a calming effect to help them manage inattention, impulses, and hyperactivity. Someone without ADHD who takes Adderall will likely feel 'high' from it and have a sense of euphoria. 

Adderall is especially susceptible to dependency, abuse, and addiction. The body develops a tolerance for the medication and requires higher and higher doses to achieve the same, desired effects. This causes a dependency on the drug. 

What are the possible side effects of Adderall?

A blonde woman sitting down with her eyes closed and pinching her nose as if she's uncomfortable.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Adderall can be life-changing for people with ADHD by helping with organization, task completion, concentration, and hyperactivity. It also carries potential side effects, including anxiety, insomnia, dry mouth, and mood swings—even for those who need it. Additionally, it's hard to avoid the medication rebound that comes with most stimulant medications.

How does Adderall affect someone without ADHD?

For people without ADHD, Adderall can increase levels of dopamine—and other neurotransmitters—too much, leading to euphoria, paranoia, mania, hallucinations, or psychosis.

Withdrawal from Adderall can cause panic attacks, abdominal pain, and fatigue. 

Other serious, long-term effects of stimulant abuse include:

  • Serious cardiovascular events, like heart attacks
  • Psychiatric adverse events, like panic attacks
  • Aggression or violence
  • Long-term suppression of physical growth
  • Seizures
  • Overdose

What we’re trying to say is…

Adderall is a serious drug with a lot of limitations put in place to keep people safe. If you have a prescription, don’t share your medication with anyone, no matter how much they offer. If caught, you could end up in more trouble than the person you give it to.

Outside of all the serious legal stuff, Adderall can be really dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, and sharing meds could cause someone to have a panic attack of even go into cardiac arrest. Don’t feel like you’re being a party-pooper. You could be saving your friend’s life. 

Getting help for Adderall addiction

The longer you have been abusing Adderall, the stronger your addiction can become. The withdrawal symptoms that start shortly after quitting can make it hard to stop on your own. 

The National Drug Helpline is for anyone dealing with addiction issues, including family members and other loved ones. Professionals are available to help 24/7/365 at 1-844-289-0879.

Frequently Asked Questions

a question mark made out of pills in the shape of a white question mark with a yellow background.
Photo by Anna Shvets

What does ‘schedule II’ mean?

Schedule 2 drugs are those that have a high risk for abuse, but have also shown to greatly improve certain medical conditions. Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta, and Ritalin are all schedule 2 drugs—to name a few.

What’s the difference between schedule 1 and schedule 2 drugs?

Both Schedule 1 and schedule 2 drugs have a high risk for abuse. However, schedule 2 drugs can treat certain conditions, whereas schedule 1 drugs have no medical benefits.

Examples of schedule 1 drugs include: heroine, LSD, and cocaine.

Is it illegal to carry ADHD medications?

Don’t worry, it’s not illegal to carry your own ADHD medication. Some states require the medication to remain in its original bottle or to show proof of prescription. 

You can protect yourself when carrying your own medications by knowing the laws in your state and having a copy of your prescription if you’re traveling. 

Is Adderall addictive?

Because it’s an amphetamine and is associated with the pleasure and reward centers of the brain—due to its effects on certain neurotransmitters, like dopamine—Adderall has the potential to be habit-forming and can lead to dependency or addiction.

Where do I find help for an Adderall addiction?

If you’re in need of support for an amphetamine addiction, you’re not alone! Here are a few (confidential) resources you can explore, based on your region:

United States:

United Kingdom:


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