DEA Decision Tree

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has adopted policies to allow DEA-registered practitioners to prescribe controlled substances without having to interact in-person with their patients.  This chart only addresses prescribing controlled substances and does not address administering or direct dispensing of controlled substances, including by narcotic treatment programs (OTPs) or hospitals. These policies are effective beginning March 31, 2020, and will remain in effect for the duration of the public health emergency, unless DEA specifies an earlier date.

This decision tree merely summarizes the policies for quick reference and does not provide a complete description of all requirements.  Full details are on DEA’s COVID-19 website, and codified in relevant law and regulations.

Under federal law, all controlled substance prescriptions must be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his/her professional practice.  21 CFR 1306.04(a).  In all circumstances when prescribing a controlled substance, including those summarized below, the practitioner must use his/her sound judgment to determine that s/he has sufficient information to conclude that the issuance of the prescription is for a bona fide medical purpose.  Practitioners must also comply with applicable state law.