Sponsor add

A Beginner's Guide to Drug Classifications & Names | Top Luxury Rehab

Published date : May 23, 2019

Drugs are lifesavers when you use the right one inappropriate dosage and killers when you take one in dosage you shouldn’t. With h-

Drug classifications

ndreds of thousands of doctors, health research facilities, clinics, and procedures in place, you won’t get lost very easily.

But, things may get messy because of the confusing classes/categories of drugs when it comes down to self-learning or some efforts to increase your knowledge about drugs. The next thing you’ll probably ask is about drug classifications, right?

A few words won’t help. Perhaps, you’ll want to look into more details. So, let’s deal with the confusion first.

Why Can Drug Classifications Become Confusing?

With thousands of drugs belonging to one or more categories marketed, it’s likely for people even including the physicians to become puzzled. Here’re just a few reasons why drug classifications may become confusing.

  • Drugs are classified using different means like therapeutic intents, chemical compositions, actions, and mechanisms, etc.
  • Different drugs may come in similar names.
  • Same drugs may use formulations but come in different names
  • There’re formulations from one single brand but they include several different drugs.
  • Drug names sometimes come in abbreviations.
  • Last but not least; remembering drug names may require some basic knowledge about chemistry and relations/interactions of chemicals with the body.

So, what are the Different Drug Classifications?

There are several ways drugs have been categorized. Here are the most widely followed means of classifications.

  • Chemical structure of drugs
  • Mode of actions and mechanism of actions
  • Legal classifications
  • Therapeutic and pharmacological considerations

A Detailed Guide to Drug Classifications 

Since all types of medications we find in the market belong to one or more classes of drugs as specified in the pharmacologic-Therapeutic Classification procedure introduced by the AHFS or American Hospital Formulary Service, we’re going to present you the highlights of the AHFS classes.


Often prescribed for atopic dermatitis, allergic reactions, asthma, and urticaria. Important subclasses include alkylamines, piperidines, and piperazines.


Often prescribed for protozoal infections, such as, amebiasis, babesiosis, cryptosporidiosis, leishmaniasis, microsporidiosis, etc. Important subclasses include antimalerial agents and amebiasis drugs.


Used for treating leprosy, a chronic disease.

Anti-Infective Agents

Used for preventing infection from spreading by killing or stopping infectious agents/organisms from growing and spreading. Important subclasses include Amebicides, Anthelmintics, Antibiotics, Antibacterial and Antiviral agents.

Antineoplastic Agents

Prescribed for halting, inhibiting, or preventing neoplasm (tumor) development. Major subclasses include Alkylating and similar agents, Antimetabolites, antitumor antibiotics, plant alkaloids, and hormonal agents.

Autonomic Drugs

Prescribed for inhibiting the regular functions of our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Major subclasses include Parasympathomimetic agents, Antiparkinson agents, Sympathomimetic and Sympatholytic agents.

Blood Derivatives

Blood derivatives are clinically known as therapeutic substances that use blood, its components, plasma derivatives, etc.

Blood Formation and Coagulation

Coagulants are applied to prevent hemorrhage while blood formation drugs provide components for blood cell generation. Major subclasses include Anti-anemia drugs, Coagulants, Hemorrheologic agents, Thrombolytic agents, etc.

Cardiovascular Drugs

Major drug subclasses include enzyme inhibitors that convert Angiotensin, Cardiac glycosides, Antilipemic agents, Hypotensive agents, etc.

Benzodiazepine Antagonists

Used for reversing Benzodiazepine effects. Important examples of antagonists include cholinesterase inhibitors, GABA-antagonists, methylxanthines, naloxone, etc.

Central Nervous System Drugs

Major subclasses include Anesthetics, Analgesics, Opiate antagonists, antipyretics, CNS stimulants, Appetite stimulants, Psychotherapeutic agents, Anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics, etc.


Used to reduce risks of pregnancy and prevent teenage pregnancy. Important examples include Intracervical Contraceptives,reversible contraception, Intrauterine Contraceptives, Intravaginal Contraceptives,etc.


Used vaginally to destroy sperms to prevent pregnancy. Common examples include Contraceptive gel, foam, vaginal film, foaming tablets, suppositories, creams, etc.

Dental Preparations

Examples include Albuterol, Epinephrine, Injectable Antihistamine, Nitroglycerin, Oxygen, etc.


Common examples include toothpaste and toothpowder.

Dental Products

Notable examples include endodontic materials, dental implants and restorations, temporary dressings, prosthetic materials (dentures), impression materials, etc.

Diagnostic Agents

Major examples include dyes, radioactive isotopes, X-ray-contrast preparations, etc.


Used in hospitals, healthcare centers, and households as sanitizers. Prominent examples are sodium hypochlorite, Chlorine dioxide, Chloramine, calcium hypochlorite, Chloramine-T, Trichloroisocyanuric acid, etc.

Electrolytic, Caloric and Water Balance

Important examples are acidifying and alkalinizing agents, ammonia detoxicants, oral rehydrators, electrolytes, resins (calcium, potassium, and sodium remover), diuretics, etc.


Used for boosting chemical reactions while affecting each of the body's functions, from respiration to digestion. Examples include Acetylcholinesterase, Amylase, DNA polymerase, Helicase, Lactase, Lipases, Maltase, Trypsin, etc.

Cough Suppressing Drugs and Expectorants

Popular subclasses include Antitussives, Expectorants, and Mucolytic agents.

Ophthalmic Emulsions, Ointments, Solutions, and Suspensions

Principal subclasses include Anti-angiogenic agents, mydriatics, ophthalmic anesthetics, anti-inflammatory agents, antihistamines, decongestants, glaucoma agents, lubricants, steroids (with/without anti-infective agents), surgical agents, etc.

otic preparations

These drugs are applied in/to human ears to deal with various middle and external ear conditions. Common types include cerumenolytics, anesthetics (otic), anti-infectives, and steroids with/without anti-infectives.

Nasal Preparations

These are applied for treating conditions and symptoms of the nose. Popular drugs include nasal anti-infective agents, decongestants, lubricants, antihistamines, and steroids.

Gastrointestinal Drugs

Used to treat gastrointestinal issues like constipation, colon polyps, IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, anal fistulas and fissures, colitis, hemorrhoids, diverticular diseases, perianal abscesses, cancer, etc. Common subclasses include Adsorbents, Antidiarrheal agents, Antiflatulents, Antacids, Digestants, Emetics, and Anti-emetics, etc.

Gold Compounds

Used for treating adult rheumatoid arthritis (both progressive and mild). Examples include Auranofin, Sodium aurotiosulfate, and aurothiomalate.

Heavy Metal Antagonists

Used for the treatment of aluminum/iron toxicity (acute/progressive), Wilson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cystinuria, iron overload (chronic), etc. Deferoxamine, Penicillamine, Edetic Acid, Deferasirox, Dimercaprol, Deferiprone, etc.

Chelating Agents

Known as sequestering agents, chelating agents/chelants are known for their ability to treat chronic overload or poisoning of iron and lead, Superficial Siderosis, Hemochromatosis, Thalassemia, Wilson's disease, and Hemosiderosis. Some widely used agents are deferoxamine, deferasirox, deferiprone, syprine, succimer, etc.


Common subclasses are steroids, androgens, anabolic agents, estrogens, antidiabetic agents, hormones for parathyroid and pituitary, gonadotropins, progestins, and contraceptives (oral, injectable, implants, and postcoital)

Local Anesthetics

Used to make the pain sensation absent with the loss of muscle strength and nerve blocks. Major subclasses include aminoamide and aminoester.

Abortifacients and Oxytocics

Abortifacients are known for inducing abortions. Common drugs are known as Misoprostol, Pitocin, Cytotec, Mifepristone, Mifeprex, Dinoprostone, Hemabate, etc. However, Oxytocics can be used for other purposes too, such as quickening childbirth, inducing uterine contractions, augmenting/inducing labor, minimizing placental blood loss, etc. Popular drugs include oxytocin, prostaglandins, and Myometrium.


With radioactive properties, these medicinal radio compounds are used for diagnosing an abscess, biliary tract blockage, and other therapeutic purposes. Common examples include Gallium Citrate Ga 67, Technetium Tc 99m Lidofenin, Indium In 111 Oxyquinoline, etc.


Used for medical research, diagnosis, and treatment. Common examples trisodium phosphate, sodium chromate tetrahydrate, sodium chromate, indium trichloride, etc.

Serums, Toxoids, and Vaccines

Available as serums, antivenins, vaccines, and toxoids.


Used for managing to sweat. Commonly used medications are anticholinergic agents, benztropine, glycopyrrolate, propantheline, oxybutynin, etc.

Topical Preparations

Known as a significant part of dermatological activities. Popular classes include creams, gels, foams, ointments, lotions, etc.

Skin and Mucous Membrane Preparations

Principal categories include antihistamines, Dermatological medications, Corticosteroids, Immunosuppressants, Keratoplastic agents, Keratolytics, essential fatty acid products, Anti-infective skincare items, Prostaglandin E1 Analoques, etc.

Smooth Muscle Relaxants

Used for skeletal functions, hyperreflexia, muscle pain, and spasm. Common drugs include nifedipine, tamsulosin, diclofenac, etc.

Dietary Supplements and Vitamins

Advertised to provide with the required amount of nutrients when taken as a supplement to the diet Available classes are amino acids, botanicals, herbals, minerals, and vitamins (A, B complex, C, D, E, and K).

Alcohol Deterrents

Used for helping people manage their abstinence or chronic alcoholism. Widely used drugs include Acamprosate and Disulfiram.


These medications offer patients quick relief and daily help for those who have chronic asthma. Popular classes are beta-2 agonists, anticholinergics, and theophylline.

Mast Cell Stabilizers

These chromone medications are known for being effective in the control or prevention of particular allergic disorders. Available medications include Ketotifen, Mepolizumab, β2-adrenergic agonists, Olopatadine, Cromoglicic acid, Omalizumab, etc.

Pulmonary Surfactants

Used for preserving bronchiolar openness during respirations (regular and forced), stopping alveolar collapse, and protecting the lungs from various infections and injuries due to inhalation of certain micro-organisms and particles. Widely available options are Beractant, Calfactant, Lucinactant, Poractantalfa, etc.

Xanthine Oxidase Inhibitors

Used for treating hyperuricemia (presence of a large volume of uric acid in the blood), nephropathy and gout (acute and chronic). Available choices are allopurinol, febuxostat, Aloprim, Uloric, Zyloprim, etc.

Legal Classifications

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) classified drugs into five schedules which the DEA states are categorized on the basis of their legitimate medical applications and potentials for abuse. So, the following schedules are the legal classifications of drugs.

Schedule I (High Potential of Drug Abuse) 

These drugs have no accepted medical applications in the US. So, there’re no accepted safety standards even under medical supervision. Most populardrugs include ecstasy, cannabis, heroin, GHB, methaqualone, mescaline, and LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide).

Schedule II (High Potential of Drug Abuse)

These drugs come with accepted medical applications with severe restrictions in the US. Frequent abuses may cause acute psychological/physical dependence. Drugs include fentanyl, cocaine, amphetamine, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone oxycodone.

Schedule III (Normal Potential of Abuse)

With the milder potential of abuse, these drugs come with an accepted medical application in the United States, but frequent abuses may be the reasons for low to mild and even high physiological/psychological dependence. Drugs in Schedule III include ketamine, anabolic steroids, and buprenorphine.

Schedule IV (Low Potential of Abuse)

These drugs are accepted in the medical treatment procedures in the United States although frequent abuses may be responsible for a very limited extent of physical/psychological dependence being relative to Schedule III drugs. Common drugs include tramadol, benzodiazepines, and modafinil.

Schedule V (Low Potential of Abuse)

These drugs are pretty much accepted for medical applications as their abuses may lead to a very low/limited level of physical/psychological dependence being relative to Schedule IV drugs. Popular drugs include a combo of atropine and diphenoxylate, pregabalin, and lacosamide.

So, you see the ‘classification’ thing keeps being complicated, doesn’t it? Here’s a helpful guide to be able to remember the classes without being overwhelmed by it.

Easy Ways to Remember Drug Classifications: 5 Tips

It’s a tricky initiative to remember all the names of the classes, no doubt! But, there’s always an easy way to do things. Here’re some quick tips to help you get started and be able to keep the names of the essentials classes in mind.

Think About Your Own Needs

You can start with the most essential ones (you and your family use daily or occasionally). This will lead you to just a few names.

Do Some Homework Once and for All

Write down the names that come up oftentimes, on a piece of paper. Clip it somewhere you look at a few times daily. You may also maintain a personal diary for this.

Get the Shortest yet Most Popular List

Feeling afraid of the detailed classifications? Well, don’t do. Based on the rehabilitation and treatment procedures, there’re five broad categories of drugs which should be easy to remember.

  • Narcotics
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Anabolic steroids

Use Technology

Download a resourceful app that contains all classes and relevant information about the drugs. Then, it’ll be just a press on your mobile keypad to get the name(s). A lot of applications are available on the Google Play Store and iTunes.

Do Some Bookmarking

You may find help from some reliable internet sources.Drug.com can be a great place for all your information. Just hit the bookmark icon, and you won’t have to worry about forgetting drug classes any longer.

So, you got comprehensive details for your understanding of drug classifications. Still looking for some more? You may visitTop Luxury Rehab (TLR) for many of your queries regarding addictions, drugs, medications, and health conditions.