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Concern About Law Enforcement

Practitioners worried about interference from law enforcement agencies concerning the prescribing of opioids or other controlled substances should note that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s official policy states:

The longstanding requirement … that physicians may prescribe controlled substances only for legitimate medical purposes in the usual course of professional practice should in no way interfere with the legitimate practice of medicine or cause any physician to be reluctant to provide legitimate pain treatment. [emphasis added] (71 Fed. Reg. 52,716)

And, while the Drug Enforcement Administration actively pursues doctors and others it believes are involved in illicit prescribing, the DEA stated the following in testimony to Congress in 2006:

The overwhelming majority of prescribing in America is conducted responsibly. Often these responsible doctors and pharmacists are the first to alert law enforcement to potential prescription problems. However, the small number of physicians who over prescribe controlled substances—carelessly at best, knowingly at worst—help supply America’s second most widespread drug addiction problem. Although the problem exists, the number of physicians and pharmacists responsible for this problem is a very small fraction (less than 1 percent) of those licensed to prescribe and dispense controlled substances in the United States. [emphasis added]


Indian Health Service. Office of Management Services. Indian Health Manual. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, 2009.

Drug Enforcement Administration. Office of Diversion Control. Pharmacist Manual: An Informational Outline of the Controlled Substances Act (2020). Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  US DEA, 2020.

"Dispensing Controlled Substances for the Treatment of Pain; Policy Statement," Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  [PDF - 140KB] Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 172 (September 6, 2006), pp. 52,716–52,723.

"Prescription Drug Abuse: What Is Being Done to Address This New Drug Epidemic?" 109th Cong. (2006) (testimony of Joseph T. Rannazzisi, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Diversion Control, Drug Enforcement Administration, US Department of Justice, before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources of the House Government Reform Committee). Congressional Record Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving 

Office of Diversion Control, Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  Drug Enforcement Administration.

DEA, Drug Scheduling. Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  Office of Diversion Control. Drug Enforcement Administration.