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Controlled drugs licences

What are controlled drugs?

Controlled drugs are substances that may or may not be used for medical treatment, but their possession, use and supply are subject to legal restrictions to prevent them causing harm, being misused, or being obtained illegally.

Controlled drugs are subject to control under the Misuse of Drugs legislation, and licences may be required for their production, possession or supply. Every summer, a request is issued for information on these licences for risk management purposes.

University research schools require licences for either:

a) The possession or supply or production of controlled drugs as listed in Schedule 1 drugs.

b) The production of controlled drugs as listed in Schedules 2, 3, 4 Part I, 4 Part II or 5.

More information on licences for controlled drugs is available from the Home Office.

Import of controlled drugs

When the substance is controlled in the country of origin but not in the UK, a “no objection letter” for its import is required from the Home Office. When emailing the Home Office (, please clearly state the substance to be imported, where the substance will be imported from and how the substance will be used. 

Destruction/Disposal of controlled drugs

The destruction or disposal of controlled drugs should only take place in the presence of, and in accordance with any directions given by, an authorized person. If a waste disposal company is to be used, you are required to ask them for a copy of their “Home Office controlled drugs licence” for your records. (NOTE: they might be authorized to collect hazardous chemical waste but they require a specific licence to collect controlled drugs). For more information contact RCO.

Closure statement

If you no longer require a controlled drugs licence, you need to submit a closure statement to the Home Office.

What legislation applies?

Issued: 22 May 2017;  Last reviewed: June 2021; Next review: May 2022