The Classification of Drugs, “Street Names”, Criminal Penalties in PennsylvaniaMaximum Drug Possession with the Intent to Distribute Penalties (Pennsylvania)

The federal government categorizes controlled substances into five classes: narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids. While controlled substances may differ in class, they all have the potential for abuse and so the federal government along with all states such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey have an interest in enforcing there use and misuse.

In addition for the potential for abuse most controlled substances can produce either a physical or psychological dependency. Physical dependency can range from mild unpleasant feelings to life threatening reactions. Psychological dependency is the “need” or “craving” for a drug which can last much longer and is the primary reason why a person relapses into a drug addiction. Addiction is the compulsive behavior for acquiring and using a drug which becomes the most important activity in the user’s life.


Narcotics are also known as opiates and are substances that dull the senses and relieve pain. Examples of narcotics include heroin, OxyContin, Vicodin, Codeine, Morphine, Methadone, and Fentanyl. Common street names for narcotics include smack, junk, oxy, oxycodone, and OC. Narcotics come in various forms including tablets, capsules, skin patches, powder, chunks in varying colors (white to shades of brown and black), liquid form for oral use, injections, syrups and even lollipops. Narcotics can be swallowed, smoked, sniffed, or injected. Narcotics are controlled substances that vary from schedule I to schedule V depending on their medical usefulness, abuse potential, safety, and drug dependency profile. A narcotic like heroin is a schedule I drug because it has no medical use in the United States. Narcotics can reduce tension, anxiety, and aggression with the side effect, however, of drowsiness, the inability to concentrate and apathy.


Stimulants speed up the body’s systems and this class of drugs includes amphetamines (Adderall and Dexedrine), methylphenidate (Concerta and Ritalin), and diet drugs (Didrex and breludin). Stimulants also include methamphetamine, cocaine, and methcatinone. Street names for stimulants include coke, crank, snow, speed, uppers, and ice. Stimulants come in a variety of forms including pills, powder, rocks, and injectable liquids. Stimulants can be swallowed, smoked, snorted, injected, and can produce a sudden sense known as a “rush” or a “flash.”

Stimulants produce a sense of exhilaration, improved mental and physical performance, increased activity, reduced appetite, and extend wakefulness for a prolonged period of time. Taking large doses and or consumption without doctor’s supervision can cause dizziness, tremors, headaches, flushed skin, excessive sweating and vomiting. Number of stimulants have no medical use and are therefore classified as schedule I drugs. Some stimulants, however, like tobacco and caffeine don’t require a prescription, obviously, but can non-the-less be addictive.


Depressants will put you to sleep, relieve anxiety, muscle pain, and prevent seizures. Examples of depressants include Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Ativan, Klonopin, Restoril, Rohypnol. Rohypnol is also known as the “date rape drug” and is not manufactured or legally marketed in the United States. Other depressants include Ambien and Sonata. Common street names for depressants include barbs, benzos, downers, roofies, tranks, and yellows. Depressants come in a variety of forms including pills, syrups, and injectable liquids.  Depressant, again, can relieve anxiety, put you to sleep, and relieve muscle pain. A side effect, however, of depressant is amnesia, reduced reaction time, impaired mental function, and judgement.


Hallucinogens are the oldest known group of drugs and have the ability to alter human perception and mood. Hallucinogens can be produced synthetically in laboratories and are also found in plants. Common street names for hallucinogens include acid, mushrooms, shrooms, special k, and mind candy. Hallucinogens come in a variety of forms but the most common is tablets. These drugs also include LSD and ecstasy. Hallucinogens raise heart rates, increase blood pressure, and dilate pupils. Hallucinogens distort perception when consumed. Most hallucinogens are considered schedule I drugs meaning that they have a high potential for abuse and no current medical application.

Criminal Penalties

The first question from a client is usually what is the worst case or the max penalty. While our focus is getting charges dropped or downgraded, this is still a good question. Even if you are convicted, however, there are sentencing guidelines and still a lot that your attorney can do to help your case.

You will find many of the drugs stated above listed on the below chart. As you can see Pennsylvania doesn’t treat all drugs the same.

Maximum Drug Possession with the Intent to Distribute Penalties (Pennsylvania)

Drug 1st Offense


Max Incarceration

1st Offense


Max Fine

2nd Offense


Max Incarceration

2nd Offense


Max Fine

Simple Possession (less than 30 grams of marijuana) 30 days $500 Same Same
Simple Possession (all other drugs) 1 year $5,500 3 years $25,000
Possession with Intent to Deliver ——————- —————– ——————– ———————
heroin, oxycodone, methadone, LSD 15 years $250,000 30 years $50,000
cocaine, crack, PCP, methamphetamine 10 years $100,000 20 years $200,000
marijuana, hashish 5 years $15,000 10 years $30,000



3 years $10,000 6 years $20,000

If you have more questions about Controlled Substances and criminal penalties in Pennsylvania, I encourage you to read my book, Commonwealth v. You or call our office. If you are arrested for either simple possession or possession with the intent to delver, remain silent and never consent to the search of your person or property. You have rights and consenting or talking is the worst mistake you can make in these cases.  I have written previous articles on Controlled Substances which you may also find helpful.