Controlled medicines – also known as controlled drugs – are a special class of medicines that are subject to tight restrictions and regulations due to how they can cause abuse or addiction.

These medicines all serve a purpose in the healthcare field, though many within this class are recreational drugs. They are medicines that need special attention and care.

In terms of treating mental health conditions, the majority of medicines involved are not controlled. However, certain ones are, making it an important topic.

Certain medicines in the UK are subject to enhanced regulation

History of Controlled Medicines

Throughout the last few decades, there have been major strides in medicine. Medicines these days are often safe, with older, more dangerous medicines being replaced by modern, safer drugs.

However, all medicines carry risk. Moreover, there are certain medicines that carry specific risk – due to their potential for misuse, abuse and addiction.

Controlled medicines also involve tight restrictions for hospital personnel. This was desperately needed following the murder of hundreds of patients by Dr. Harold Shipman through the use of Diamorphine – better known as Heroin.

In 2006, the United Kingdom enacted the Controlled Drugs Regulations act, with this leading to the creation of a list of controlled drugs in 2013. By making this list, the NHS aim to minimise harm to patients.

The act meant that each NHS trust and independent hospitals needed to appoint an “Accountable Officer” – whose role it is to ensure controlled drugs are managed safely in their organisation.

The list has largely stayed the same since its 2013 publication. However, there are occasional additions to the list. Recent additions include Pregabalin (Lyrica) and Gabapentin (Neurontin).

Examples of Controlled Medicines

Controlled medicines are typically powerful medicines that can cause a range of side effects if not used correctly. When used clinically, they can serve a very positive purpose.

Many controlled medicines are powerful sedatives. These include Diazepam, Lorazepam and other benzodiazepines. Older sedatives – called Barbiturates – are also often controlled medicines.

Among the highest profile controlled medicines are opioids. Many high-strength opioids are misused, hence why they are classed like this. Morphine, Fentanyl, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone are all

Other examples include Cocaine, Amphetamine, N-N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and Clonazepam among others. You can see a longer list on the government’s website by clicking here.

Can anyone pick up a prescription for a controlled medicine?

It is important to be aware of how controlled medicines work. Controlled medicines have strict rules involved when it comes to prescribing and dispensing them.

One such example is that a pharmacist can ask for proof of identity when a person comes to collect the medicine. The patient will normally be asked to sign the back of their prescription to confirm that they have received it.

If the person is unable to pick up the prescription themselves, they can ask someone to collect the medicine on behalf of them. However, the pharmacist will often ask for proof of identity.

There are special storage rules for these drugs. Controlled drugs cupboards exist in pharmacies, with most keeping an up to date register of all drugs in their inventory.

Are any medicines in mental health controlled medicines?

Largely, medicines used to treat mental health conditions are not controlled medicines. As mentioned earlier, there are some exceptions – such as when Benzodiazepines are needed for short-term use.

The main medicines used in treatment of conditions like Depression and Anxiety are antidepressants and antipsychotics. These are not controlled medicines, and can be prescribed and dispensed as normal.


Many people are aware of the dangers that certain drugs can have on people. Some drugs can cause addiction issues, dependency to develop and general abuse. This is why special regulations are needed.

Controlled medicines are important drugs in healthcare – but need to be used properly. While they are only used in a minority of mental health cases, it is good to be aware of their existence, in case you ever are prescribed such a medicine.

See Also



This website should be used purely for informational purposes, and does not intend to, nor should it ever, be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.

We strive to keep all of our pages updated, and ensure that our website is full of factual and in-depth information. However, we encourage you to browse this website with care.

As a reminder, this website and all content within it cannot and should not replace the advice of a trained medical professional. You can read our full disclaimer at this link.


If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.