Clinical update

Controlled drugs

Stay up to date with the latest guidance on prescribing controlled drugs.

Essential facts

Controlled drugs are defined and governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and associated regulations. Examples of controlled drugs are morphine, pethidine and methadone.

Since 2012, appropriately qualified nurses and midwives can prescribe controlled drugs for medical conditions within their competence. There are some exceptions when treating addiction.

In April, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published new guidance on the safe use and management of controlled drugs in all NHS settings, apart from care homes, which are covered by separate NICE guidance. The aim is to improve working practices, comply with legislation, have robust governance arrangements in place and reduce any associated risks. Systems should allow controlled drugs to be managed and used safely, while helping to ensure appropriate and convenient access for those who are prescribed them, says NICE.

Stricter regulations apply to controlled medicines because they are


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