The access and use of drugs either legitimately or illegitimately has dramatically increased across the globe. Heroin, marijuana and MDMA (ecstasy) drugs have been classified under the Schedule I type of drugs. This paper seeks to explore the similarities and differences between these Schedule I drugs. With the understanding of this comparison, the paper will then focus on one drug and discuss reasons why it should be classified under Schedule II drugs and not Schedule I as is currently the case.

Heroin is a medical drug used as a painkiller. It is synthesized from morphine that is derived from opium poppy. The drug is very dangerous and has very high addictive potentials. Marijuana is a drug that comes from a plant called cannabis. It does not have high addiction potentials as such. It consists of a mixture of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves (Human Kinetics 403). MDA (Ecstasy) is a synthetic and psychoactive drug available in form of tablets and used as a stimulant. Addiction to this drug causes over-activity of the body systems. It is often mixed with other substances such as alcohol or marijuana so as to increase its effects.

Similarities between Heroin, Marijuana and MDMA (Ecstasy)


Heroin, marijuana and MDMA (Ecstasy) are three drugs that are classified under schedule I of drug classification. Under the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration and Drug Scheduling, these drugs are grouped under schedule I because both of them have the highest potential for abuse. Generally, all the three drugs are not accepted for medical use in United States . These substances are considered as drugs and medicine to some extent though not exclusively. The drugs are used by adolescents and young adults for recreational and therapeutic purposes.

Besides being classified as the highly abused drugs, heroin, marijuana and MDMA (ecstasy) are very unsafe for use of all the other types of drugs. This is because their effects on the dependants/addicts are very risky and can be fatal at times. They are thus generally unsafe drugs to use.The rate of physical and psychological abuse for heroin, marijuana and MDMA (ecstasy) remain generally high as compared to other drugs that are also prevalent in use.

Consequences/Effects of Abuse

Although there may be slight differences in terms of the effects of addiction and overdependence on heroin, marijuana and ecstasy, generally there are similarities in the consequences of these drugs. To start with, the use of these drugs can easily result into physical or psychological dependence. Heroin for example contains narcotic substances that cause dependence. In fact, just as is the case with marijuana and ecstasy, use of heroin can impair the normal motor and cognitive functioning of an individual. These drugs also cause fluctuations in mood and awareness of the users.

The tolerance levels for marijuana, heroin and ecstasy are very high. As a result, once one has been addicted to these drugs, the dose must be increased so as to feel the pleasant effects of these drugs. Besides, both drugs have very high hallucinating impact on the users. After taking MDMA, heroin or even marijuana, one experiences hallucinations and forgets about the realities of the present environment. Such dependants often become so high and assume that everything around them is perfect and everyone is happy (Gardner 193).


The level of accessibility of marijuana, heroin and MDMA is another aspect where comparison of these drugs can be made. Although marijuana is the most accessible among these three drugs for the adolescents and young adults, generally all these drugs are easily accessible by the users. Perhaps this explains why they are also very unsafe and unsecure in almost all the states across the globe. Reports of seized marijuana, heroin and ecstasy drugs among high school and college students confirm this ease of reach for these drugs. Among the cases of drugs that are seized by the anti-drug trafficking agencies, heroin, MDMA and marijuana tops the list.

The availability and accessibility of the drugs to the public is supported by the existing chains of distribution and drug cartels across international boundaries. The attitude of the public concerning heroin, marijuana and ecstasy coupled with popularization by the media and groups that advocate for the legalization of these drugs have greatly added to the popularity of the three drugs.

Legitimacy of use

Whereas marijuana, ecstasy and heroin form the highest percentage of widely accessible and abused drugs by adolescents and young adults, these drugs are all illegitimate (Dziegielewski 103). This is another aspect in which the three drugs contrast. According to the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, these drugs have no legitimate medical use. As such, the drugs can never be prescribed by a physician. Pharmacists therefore are not allowed to sell either heroin, marijuana or ecstasy drugs.

Although there are claims that heroin, marijuana and MDMA might be having some medical uses or value, this has not been practically and medically confirmed. As such, marijuana, heroin and ecstasy still remain illegitimate under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Dziegielewski  contends that the legislations that rendered these drugs illegitimate were informed by the fatal risks involved especially with overdependence or addiction to these drugs. Since these drugs are all illegal, people caught with them are severely punished. Such victims often end up with longer jail terms than other drug offenders.

Differences between Heroin, Marijuana and MDMA (Ecstasy)

Although heroin, marijuana and MDMA (Ecstasy) have broad similarities according their classification under Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, the drugs have slight and specific differences. These include the physical and psychological effects of the drugs, source/origin, chemical composition, and mode/method of use.
Origin/Source of the drugs

Marijuana, heroin and MDMA (ecstasy) have different origins or sources. Marijuana for example is produced by a plant known as cannabis sativa. The drug is made from the dried particles of the cannabis plant and then used for recreational, personal/personal or medical purposes (Gardner et al 193).  Heroin on the other hand is made from opium. Opium is the product of the poppy plant. Heroin is therefore an opiate. The drug is synthesized from morphine which is derived from the opium poppy. MDMA (ecstasy) is the methylenedioxy derived from methamphetamine. This drug is manufactured from starting materials such as isosafrole and safrole. Therefore it is not derived from a naturally occurring plant. It is a drug that is synthetic and created in a laboratory.

Psychological and Physical Effects of use

Marijuana has got certain short-term effects that make it different from heroin and ecstasy drug. Among the immediate physical effects include increased heartbeat, dryness of mouth and throat of the user and dilated eyes. Gardner et al cited that this drug also causes panic anxiety reactions that make it quite peculiar from heroin and MDMA. In the short term, the drug causes difficulty in thinking and solving of problems, distortion of perception and lost coordination. Heroin on the other hand suppresses respiratory process and crowded mental functioning. The adverse effects of the use of heroin include development of severe withdrawal tendencies among users.

In examining the differences between heroin, marijuana and ecstasy in terms of the effect of the drugs, the particular effects of ecstasy on the user must be considered. MDMA (ecstasy) users also differentiate it from heroin and marijuana. For example, use of ecstasy results into confusion, depression, sleeps complications and extreme levels of anxiety. Addicts to MDMA are also likely to develop poor cognitive and memory functions. With continued usage, ecstasy causes blurred vision, euphoria and paranoia. Besides, maintaining of attention to complex tasks becomes difficult for a person under the influence of ecstasy drug unlike heroin and marijuana. This is because of the higher hallucinatory effects of the drug.

Chemical composition

Heroin, marijuana and MDMA (ecstasy) can also be differentiated in terms of their chemical compositions. The chemical compositions of these drugs differentiate them even in terms of the physiological and psychological effects. For example, marijuana is dominated by sixty one natural and synthetic cannabinoides. The major chemical compound that is responsible for the medicinal and psychoactive effects of marijuana is delta-9 tetrahidrocannabinol. The smoke of this drug also contains toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide, phenol, acetaldehyde and naphthalene. These are not found in heroin and ecstasy.

Heroin differs from marijuana and ecstasy because it has a chemical compound known as diacetylmorphine in its powdered form. Ecstasy on the other hand contains a chemical compound produced in the laboratory called 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. This drug is commonly available in form of capsule or pills unlike marijuana and heroin.

Mode of use

Heroin, marijuana and ecstasy can be differentiated in terms of the mode of use or how they are used. Gardner et al  illustrated that marijuana is generally rolled loosely into a cigarette popularly known as a Joint or Nail. It can also be smoked out of a water pipe that is commonly known to users as “bong.” Heroin, different from marijuana and ecstasy, is intravenously injected into the body for faster potent high. However, some users also sniff the drug so as to avoid the risks associated with sharing of injection needles. Others also sniff the liquefied drug using nasal spray bottles. MDMA (ecstasy) is commonly available in tablets form and is normally ingested orally. The drug is rarely injected as heroin nor smoked as is the case with marijuana.

Reasons why Marijuana should be changed to a Schedule II Drug

Currently, marijuana is grouped under Schedule I according to the US statutory criteria. Drugs under this classification are considered illegitimate since they do not have any medicinal value. However, marijuana should be classified under schedule II drugs and be made legitimate since it can be used for medical purpose. Medical marijuana should thus be changed from Schedule I to Schedule II. This would authorize physicians to prescribe the drug for patient in particular needy medical situations.

Rescheduling of marijuana into Schedule II drugs will enhance tapping of the medicinal value of this drug although it will continue to remain addictive for those that use it for recreational purposes. From the studies that have been conducted on the chemical composition of marijuana, it has been confirmed that cannabis-based drugs are quite useful in treating inflammatory bowel diseases and complications as well as asthma and neurogenic pains.

Marijuana can be used for several medical and therapeutic purposes. Many patients have reported the effectiveness of marijuana in increasing appetite, reducing nauseous feelings when smoked or ingested. Carter (231) cited that in patient with glaucoma, this drug helps in reducing pain and intraocular pressure. Marijuana is cheaper to grow compared to other substances with medical value. This implies that rescheduling of the drugs into schedule II would enable patients to easily afford and obtain the drug whenever there is need. Besides, the state and the federal government are spending a lot of money in maintaining the illegality of the drug. On the contrary, making the drug legitimate under Schedule II would lead to huge profits for the local, federal and state government through taxation.

Use of marijuana for medical purposes is safer when compared to other medical prescriptions on a daily basis. Besides, schedule I limits access of research to marijuana. This is contrary to the Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Association’s proposal for more research on marijuana for medical uses. Keeping the drug under schedule I is responsible for the inadequate supply of this drug for research yet it carries great medical value that only awaits empirical and scientific research to be confirmed. It is generally wrong and morally unethical to incarcerate the sick and dying people for making use of recommended drug by their doctors. This is because under some states, the law on drugs has made the drug legitimate following its classification in Schedule II.


Heroin, marijuana and MDMA (ecstasy) remain to be at the top among the drugs that are most used by adolescents and young adults in high schools, colleges and universities. These drugs have got various similarities in terms of their effects, access and legitimacy. At the same time, differences also exist between these three drugs. The drugs can be differentiated in terms of the mode of use, chemical composition, psychological and physiological effects. Although these drugs are all classified under Schedule I according to Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, marijuana should be rescheduled into schedule II dues its medical value. This would help patients who depend on this drug for medical and therapeutic purposes.