What Constitutes an Illegal Drug? – 2024 Guide

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With ever-changing laws on recreational substances, many Americans are not aware of what is and isn’t an illegal drug. Yet, this information can save someone’s future in the case of a mishap.

If you’ve recently been charged with possession or distribution this article could help you get more clarity on your case. So keep reading our informative article to learn more on this topic.

What is an Illegal Drug?

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An illegal drug is anything that gets you in legal trouble with an officer of the law. Oftentimes, those who are charged with illegal drug use are arrested on sight and jailed for a night or two.

During the arrest, the individual will have their rights read. They will also be fully processed in the system via fingerprints. The person’s information will be entered inside a database to register as a drug offense.

Typically, attorneys who deal with drug cases are inadvertently dealing with felony punishments. Overall, an illegal drug is anything that is not prescribed by a licensed doctor or sold over the counter.

Controlled Substances Act

The Controlled Substances Act was created to classify drugs into different sections.

This act also allows for substances to be fully controlled or removed from regulation. Usually, when deciding what schedule a drug should be placed in, there are specific factors that are used. Here are some examples:

  • The purpose of the substance’s in medical practice
  • The likelihood of abuse when used
  • The overall safety of the drug
  • Its scientific data and effect on the human body

There are other factors that determine the schedule of a drug. However, these are the factors that are mainly used to initiate testing for a drug.

Drug Counts and Charges

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If a police officer finds you guilty of possession, the prosecutor will begin making a case against you. This is when you should start worrying about your charge and drug counts.

These factors will determine if you get time in prison or parole. You might be able to lessen your sentence in exchange for information. However, it’s highly recommended that you don’t speak with the police until after you’ve received legal counsel.

Different Types of Illegal Drugs

There are many types of illegal drugs in the United States today. In fact, a recent study showed that new drugs are being produced by black market sellers at a higher rate. However, for this article, we will only discuss commonly known drugs.

The most popular illegal substance is cannabis or “marijuana“. Although this substance has been legalized in some states, there are states where this drug is still considered a felony or misdemeanor.

Overall, the amount of cannabis that was found on your person or property will determine counts and sentencing.

Felony Drug Types

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Cocaine has become widely popular amongst all age groups in America. This highly addictive and lethal drug is always considered a felony.

However, for anything lower than a gram your charge may result in a lower-level felony.

MDMA or ecstasy is another popular party drug used to elevate one’s state of mind. This drug is also considered a felony charge but can be a lower-level felony. However, it all depends on the amount that you possessed during the time of the arrest.

GHB is often associated with “date rape”. GHB is a very dangerous drug because of the intense euphoria that leaves many users “blacked out”.

Possession of GHB can lead to a felony charge like the drugs mentioned above. Here are other examples of illegal substances that are popular in the United States.

  • Hallucinogens
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ketamine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants

Overall, an illegal drug is any substance that leads to an altered state of mind. where the person is unable to control their bodily impulses.

However, there are legal drugs that can lead to the same behavioral issues. But remember that an illegal drug is always obtained through illegal means such as a black market dealer.

Classification of Drugs

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Different kinds of drugs will have varying effects on your body and mind. For example, depressants are classified as drugs that destabilize and slow down the central nervous system.

Depressants don’t necessarily cause depression; they are called this because they suppress the nervous system. Illegal depressants are usually classified as heroin, barbiturates, and GHB.

Stimulants or psychostimulants are drugs that speed up the central nervous system by accelerating the messages traveling between the brain and body.

Taking these drugs usually results in higher energy levels and increased heart rates. These drugs are usually classified as methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA.

Hallucinogens can greatly alter a person’s state of mind and reality for 5 to 10 hours. Usually, these drugs can also alter a person’s emotions, taste, sight, and behavior. Ketamine, mushrooms, and LSD are all examples of illegal hallucinogens.

What is a Legal Drug?

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Knowing the difference between illegal vs legal drugs can save you from years of legal repercussions. So now that you know more about illegal drugs, it’s time to talk about legal drugs. The Washington legislature’s office or the Federal legislature classifies drugs.

However, before a drug is legal, it needs to be studied by the CDC.

But, there are instances where drugs or vitamins are not fully authorized by the CDC and are still sold. For example, spice or K2 is a drug that became very popular in the U.S.

Nevertheless, it was eventually banned because of its harmful psychoactive ingredients.

Overall, a legal drug is anything that was legally prescribed to you or bought over the counter. But be aware that some over-the-counter medications are able to be recreational.

For example, cold and flu medicine can produce a euphoric experience. Similarly, legal opioids such as Xanax or Hydrochinon can also be abused.

Nevertheless, abusing legal drugs rarely results in drug charges. Instead, you might need to go to rehab or therapy. However, if you injure someone or commit a crime while under the influence, you may receive a drug charge on top of other legal repercussions.


Getting caught with an illegal drug can be very overwhelming and at times, scary. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between illegal vs legal drugs.