How Do I Get My DEA Registration?

As an emergency medicine resident, you’re allowed to prescribe medications as part of the training program under the supervision of a physician. (Although you’re not allowed to prescribe for individuals who are not patients of your supervising physician and not receiving care within your training program.)

But now that you’re finishing up your residency and ready to look for emergency physician jobs, you have to ensure you meet all qualifications for prescribing medications on your own, without oversight from a supervising physician. One important qualification is registration with the Drug Enforcement Agency. This allows you to prescribe controlled substances like opioids and benzodiazepines.

What Is DEA Registration and Why Do You Need It?

As a practicing EM physician, you must be qualified to prescribe the appropriate medications to treat your patients’ injuries and illnesses. As you undoubtedly know, some drugs can be abused, and in some people, they can cause more problems than they solve – problems like addiction, impairment, overdose and even death.

Painkillers like morphine and oxycontin and other addictive medications like diazepam are listed as controlled substances by the DEA. They are more heavily regulated than other prescription medications, and because of their heavier regulation, all physicians prescribing them — including those working in the emergency department — must be registered with the DEA and have a license to prescribe them.

How Do New EM Doctors Obtain Their DEA License?

Before you can apply for your DEA license to prescribe controlled substances, you must first meet state licensing requirements. That means you must have a state license to practice medicine, and, if it’s required by your state, a state controlled substance license, as well. The DEA does not issue registration to physicians whose state license has been rescinded or revoked.

Applying requires that you complete and submit DEA Form 224, either online or by U.S. mail. On this application, you will be required to enter tax identification data, personal information, state licensing information and answers to background questions that are related to controlled substances. You must also submit a nonrefundable application fee.

Bear in mind that registering with the DEA for controlled substance prescribing does not allow you to prescribe controlled substances for treating narcotics addictions. For that, you must first have a different, specific registration for working in a narcotic treatment program. This registration requires completion of Form 363, plus a separate application fee.

Consequences of Not Maintaining Current DEA Registration

Not being able to prescribe controlled substances can have a tremendous negative effect on the career of EM physicians, since their jobs are likely to involve treating severe injuries that require powerful painkillers. DEA registration has to be renewed every three years, and the DEA will send renewal applications 60 days before an existing license expires. Like your initial application, your renewal application can also be completed online.

Don’t wait until the last minute to return renewal materials! It can take anywhere from six to 12 weeks for the DEA to process renewals, and there is no grace period for renewal of DEA registration. Any time your registration lapses, you cannot prescribe, dispense or administer controlled substances without facing serious legal consequences.

Whether or not your DEA license is up for renewal, you must inform the DEA any time your address changes. The post office cannot forward your DEA renewal package, so it’s essential that the agency always has your current mailing address.

Obtaining your DEA registration as quickly as possible will make it easier for you to begin work once you accept that first job after residency.

If you’re an EM physician nearing the end of your training, or simply looking for new opportunities, search for emergency medicine jobs on emCareers.org.

emCareers.  An Approved EMRA Benefits Program