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Why is phentermine a controlled substance?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Nov 9, 2022.

Official answer


Phentermine is a stimulant that is chemically like amphetamine and carries a risk of dependence and abuse, which is why it is a controlled substance and only available on prescription. But the potential for dependence and abuse is lower with phentermine than other stimulants, such as amphetamine, methylphenidate, or narcotics, which is why it is a Schedule 4 controlled substance, rather than being in a higher schedule class, such as schedule 2 or 3.

Schedule 4 controlled substances are usually prescribed medications with a low risk of developing a substance use disorder. Schedule 4 controlled substances cannot be filled or refilled more than 5 times, or more than 6 months after the date the prescription was issued.

  • Diversion Control Division. US Department of Justice.
  • Drug Classifications: Schedule 1-5 Drugs. Duffy’s Rehab Center.

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