Controlled Substances

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Frequently asked questions

What are controlled substances?

A controlled substance is a drug or chemical whose production, possession, and use are all regulated by the government, such as illegally used drugs or legally prescribed pharmaceuticals.

What are the 4 types of controlled substances?

Opioids, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids are all controlled substances. Controlled substances with established medicinal uses, such as morphine, Valium, and Ritalin, are only available with a doctor's prescription.

What’s the difference between a drug and a controlled substance?

Controlled substances are medications that can cause physical and mental dependence. Most blood pressure and cholesterol medications are non-controlled medications. Same with diabetes medications (including insulin), asthma inhalers, and antibiotics. 

What do the ‘classes’ of controlled drugs refer to?

This is the grouping system used by the Misuse of Drugs Act to reflect how dangerous a substance is.

Drugs are grouped into a ‘Class’ - either A, B or C according to their risk level, with Class A substances the most dangerous.

What do the ‘schedules’ of controlled drugs refer to?

This is the grouping system used by the Misuse of Drugs Regulations to reflect the different

restrictions that apply to the prescription and monitoring of controlled drugs used for medical

purposes. Drugs are grouped into one of five ‘Schedules’ with Schedule 1 having the tightest


How are controlled drugs regulated?

The Home Office maintains the central list of UK controlled drugs and reviews this list periodically.

Changes to the list can only be made after the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has advised the Home Office that changes should be made and a full Public Consultation has taken place.

 Drugs can be “up-classified” if stronger controls need to be in place or can be down-classified

if a substance has been shown to pose less of a safety risk to patients and the public. 

The reclassification of substances can affect how physiotherapists prescribe and/or administer controlled drugs, particularly if the drug is made a controlled drug or is moved into a higher classification that has tighter controls on its use.

Is diazepam a controlled drug?

Benzodiazepines (including diazepam, flunitrazepam and temazepam) Benzodiazepines are class C drugs. Some benzodiazepines belong to schedule 3 and some belong to schedule 4. Possession without a prescription, or supply or production without a licence, is illegal.  

How controlled drugs should be stored?

For safe practice, use a dedicated cupboard to store controlled drugs. Do not use the controlled drugs cupboard for other drugs. If an individual is self-administering controlled drugs, a risk assessment should consider where the controlled drugs will be stored.

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