Authorities for prescribing drugs of dependence

When is an authority required?

It is an offence to prescribe or supply (including administering from the prescribers’ own supply), drugs of dependence for a patient for regular use for a period exceeding two months without authority from the Minister.

Treatment provided by other prescribers must be considered when calculating the two-month period.

Treating drug dependence, be it of illicit, licit or iatrogenic source, requires an authority from the Minister in the first instance; it is an offence to prescribe for this purpose without an authority for any period.

Exemptions from the requirement for an authority

An authority is not required when prescribing or supplying a drug of dependence in the following circumstances:

  • A patient aged 70 years or more and the drug involved is not pethidine
  • A patient whose life expectancy is less than 12 months if the drug is not pethidine and the prescriber has informed the Minister of the patient’s name, address, date of birth and the nature of the condition for which the drug is prescribed.  In these cases, the prescriber must endorse the prescription either “Notified Palliative Care Patient” or “NPCP”
  • An inpatient in a hospital or correctional institution where the duration of treatment with a drug of dependence does not exceed 14 days
  • A patient discharged from a hospital following an inpatient stay and the duration of treatment after discharge does not exceed 14 days

Difference between a Controlled Substances Act authority and a Medicare Australia authority

An authority granted under section 18A of the Act stipulates the conditions under which drugs of dependence must be prescribed, including dosage and quantity.  It is not the same as an authority issued by Medicare Australia that issues its authorities for the subsidy of medications under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).   Please refer to the PBS information line for more information on 1800 020 613.

Authorities to treat pain with opioid drugs of dependence and the procedure for granting pain authorities

Unit staff are guided by the Process for Granting Authorities to treat pain with opioid Drugs of Dependence (PDF 92KB). Documented relevant specialist support may be required in some instances. High doses, young patients, patients with a history of substance misuse and patients with pain conditions that are not usually responsive to opioids generally require documented relevant specialist support prior to an authority being granted for treatment with opioid drugs of dependence.

Application form for treating pain with opioid drugs of dependence (PDF 92KB)

Authorities to treat and maintain opioid dependence- MATOD Programs

Through the MATOD (Medication Assisted Treatment for Opiod Dependence) Program and MATOD (Medication Assisted Treatment for Opiod Dependence) Suboxone® Program, accredited prescribers may apply for authority to prescribe methadone or buprenorphine in accordance with the MATOD Program Policy (PDF 277KB) for the treatment of drug dependence.

Unaccredited prescribers may apply for authority to prescribe Suboxone® film for up to FIVE patients in accordance with the Suboxone® Opioid Substitution Program policy (PDF 190KB) for the treatment of drug dependence.

Application form for treating or maintaining drug dependence (PDF 181KB)

Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Narcolepsy with Schedule 8 stimulants

Treatment should generally be initiated and overseen by a relevant specialist medical practitioner (paediatrician, psychiatrist, neurologist or sleep physician).

Authority for General Practitioners to prescribe Schedule 8 stimulants will generally be conditional on annual review and continued support from the relevant specialist medical practitioner.

Treatment of Child Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Diagnosis and initiation of treatment should be completed by a specialist paediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist. A patient is considered a child until the age of 19 for authority purposes. A paediatrician may request to have the authority extended until the patient turns 25 if they remain in at least part time study.

Treatment of Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Diagnosis and initiation of treatment should be completed by a psychiatrist.

Patients with a history of schizophrenia (or other psychiatric lesion manifesting psychotic symptoms) or significant substance abuse will require opinion from a second psychiatrist for consideration of an authority to prescribe Schedule 8 stimulants.

Requests to prescribe doses in excess of dexamphetamine 30mg per day, methylphenidate 60mg per day and methylphenidate controlled release tablets 75mg per day also require documented second psychiatrist support.

Authorities may be conditional on a urine drug screen being performed. Urine drugs screens should be random (sample provided at the time it is requested) and undergo further testing using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) to ensure correct identification of the agents present in the sample.

Treatment of Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (PDF 174KB)

Treatment of Narcolepsy

Diagnosis and initiation of treatment should be completed by a sleep physician or neurologist.

Treatment with flunitrazepam or alprazolam

Treatment should generally be overseen by a psychiatrist. General Practitioners should forward any relevant specialist reports with the application if seeking an authority to prescribe flunitrazepam or alprazolam.

Infants requiring morphine - Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Medicinal cannabis

Medical practitioners in South Australia can legally prescribe medicinal cannabis medicines with relevant State and Commonwealth approvals.

Existing South Australian Controlled Substances legislation regulates the prescribing and supply of Schedule 8 medicines in South Australia applies to Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis drugs.

For more information about the patient access pathway to medicinal cannabis in South Australia:

Medicines and Technology Programs
Department of Health and Ageing
Phone: (08) 8226 6169

For information about industry development support in South Australia:

Office of Industrial Hemp and Medicinal Cannabis
Phone: (08) 8463 5630

^ Back to top