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
Our primary focus in regulating controlled drugs is to limit public health harms associated with drug dependence, misuse and drug diversion. All applications for authority are considered on a case-by-case basis. While clinical appropriateness of opioid therapy rests with the treating practitioner, documented relevant specialist medical practitioner support may be required in some instances. Some examples include: high doses, young patients, patients with a history of substance misuse and patients with pain conditions that are not usually responsive to opioids.
Authorities to treat and maintain opioid dependence - MATOD Programs
Through the MATOD (Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence) Program accredited prescribers may apply for authority to prescribe methadone or buprenorphine for the treatment of drug dependence.
Unaccredited prescribers may apply for authority to prescribe Suboxone® film for up to TEN patients for the treatment of drug dependence.
Schedule 8 Stimulants
Schedule 8 stimulant medicines including dexamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine and methylphenidate have legitimate therapeutic uses, but also the potential for addiction or abuse.
Stimulant medicines stimulate the central nervous system by increasing the activity of certain chemicals in the brain and are used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy (a sleep disorder) and less often to treat depression or acquired brain injury.
Diagnosis and initial application for authority to prescribe Schedule 8 stimulants should be made by a relevant AHPRA recognised specialist medical practitioner (eg. paediatrician, psychiatrist, neurologist or respiratory physician).
Maintenance and Continued Prescribing
A general practitioner (GP) will not usually be granted an authority to prescribe schedule 8 stimulants without the explicit written support of a relevant specialist medical practitioner and;
- diagnosis and treatment stability has been established, and/or
- for individual patients with special needs (including those living in regional areas) where a specialist retains clinical oversight of the patient’s care.
Determining the severity of ADHD is a matter for clinical judgement, taking into account the severity of impairment, pervasiveness, individual factors and familial and social context.
Stimulant dose should be titrated against the patient’s clinical need and treatment should be part of a comprehensive program addressing psychological, behavioural and educational or occupational needs.
Stimulant treatment for people who misuse other substances should be carefully monitored. Substance misuse may include current or past IV drug use, illicit amphetamine use or drug or alcohol dependence.
The risk of misuse and diversion of prescribed stimulants may be increased for patients with a history of substance abuse and the decision to use stimulants requires an individual risk-benefit assessment. Specific consideration should be given to:
- drug screen urinalysis to determine what (if any) other drugs are being used,
- referral to an Addiction Medicine specialist or Drug and Alcohol Services, and
- liaison between health professionals involved in the patient’s care where a patient is receiving treatment for opioid drug dependence.
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.
- Alprazolam for prescribers and pharmacists
- Application form for treatment with flunitrazepam or alprazolam (PDF 147KB)
Infants requiring morphine - Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
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: