In 1973, President Richard Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) through an executive order that established a centralized command structure to combat "an all-out global war on the drug menace." Currently, the DEA retains a presence in the U.S. and 63 foreign countries, and has an operating budget in excess of $2.3 billion. The DEA's stated mission is to "enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States." This is accomplished through use of U.S. civil and criminal courts, as well as international courts of competent jurisdiction.
Of increasing importance for health care and EMS providers is a core function of the DEA—"Enforcement of the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act as they pertain to the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of legally produced controlled substances." The DEA is particularly concerned with the "alarming prescription drug abuse problem in America." Under current estimates, more than 6 million Americans abuse prescription meds, which is more than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined. Also, more Americans are abusing pain medications (2.4 million) than marijuana (2.1 million) or cocaine (1.0 million). Accordingly, the DEA has set a course and regulatory framework that demands the health-care community be "vigilant in prevention diversion."
Through passage of the Controlled Substances Act, Congress established a comprehensive framework concerning registering, reporting, prescribing and other regulation of controlled substances to be enforced by the DEA. Congress provided the attorney general the power and authority to both delegate enforcement and promulgate regulations deemed "necessary and appropriate" to regulate all controlled substances. In an effort to accomplish its mission, the DEA created the Office of Diversion Control, which seeks to limit, investigate, prosecute and eliminate diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals and controlled chemicals. The attorney general and DEA have also set forth extensive regulations outlining drug diversion policy.
The Office of Drug Diversion Web site contains an amazing amount of valuable information, including an electronic copy of the Controlled Substances Act and corresponding regulations applicable to drug diversion, registration, etc. Specific questions regarding controlled substances can be addressed to the applicable diversion field office.