CDSA & NSAA e-Learning Module

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and Narcotics Safety and Awareness Act (NSAA) e-Learning Module is one in a series of learning modules that the College is introducing. It is an overview of key principles in the CDSA and its related regulations, as well as the NSAA and its regulations. We recommend that you view this module and refer to the CDSA and NSAA legislation as required, as well as the practice policies and guidelines applicable to these pieces of legislation.

The estimated running time is approximately two to three hours but will depend on your individual pace.

CDSA & NSAA Module


Please note that the CDSA and NSAA Learning Module is only a tool to support learning the CDSA and NSAA and its regulations and is not a comprehensive study resource. It is important to refer to the official legislation for more detailed and current information.


March 2021:
Under Section 7 Methadone, please note that the CPSO documents MMT Program Standards and Clinical Guidelines, and the MMT for Opioid Dependence Policy have been rescinded by CPSO. Please refer to the CPSO Prescribing Drugs Policy and its companion resource document: ADVICE TO THE PROFESSION: PRESCRIBING DRUGS. As noted in the module, refer also to the OCP Opioid Policy and Fact Sheet: Key Requirements for Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT)

March 26, 2020:
Important update regarding the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic

Health Canada has issued pharmacists a temporary Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) Subsection 56(1) Class Exemption for Patients, Practitioners and Pharmacists Prescribing and Providing Controlled Substances in Canada during the Coronavirus Pandemic from the provisions of:

  • Subsection 31(1), and section 37 of the Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR)
  • Sections G.03.002 and G.03.006 of Part G of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR)
  • Paragraphs 52 (c) and (d), subsection 54(1) of the Benzodiazepines and Other Targeted Substances Regulations.

Please refer to the Prescription Regulations Summary Chart and the COVID-19: Information for Pharmacy Professionals webpage and for more information.

December 2019:
Health Canada released the Guidance Document: Reporting Loss or Theft of Controlled Substances and Precursors (CS-GD-005) clarifying that pharmacists are required to report a prescription forgery for a controlled substance that has been dispensed to Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substances within 10 days of its discovery, as this constitutes theft.

May 2018:
As of May 19, 2018, practitioners no longer require a Section 56 exemption from Health Canada prior to prescribing methadone as per changes to the Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR).

Note: Section 7 Methadone in this CDSA Module refers to Section 56 exemption which is no longer required.

April 2017:
As of April 19, 2017, Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are now authorized to prescribe controlled substances in Ontario if they successfully complete the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) approved controlled substances education. This is reflected on CNO’s public register-Find a Nurse. The Nursing Act has been amended since the module was recorded. For more information, refer to the CNO website.

October 2016:
As of October 1, 2016, the regulations under Safeguarding our Communities Act (Patch for Patch Return Policy) took effect in the province of Ontario. This introduced a mandatory patch-for-patch program that establishes specific obligations on prescribers, dispensers and patients in the prescribing, dispensing and use of fentanyl patches. Refer to the legislation and to the following tool for more information: Patch-For-Patch Fentanyl Return Program Fact Sheet.

September 2016:
Diacetylmorphine (heroin) has been added to the list of narcotics that are classified as “Narcotic Drugs”.

Under chapter 4 Narcotics, the slide titled “Narcotic Drugs” should now include diacetylmorphine (heroin) as one of the 5 narcotics listed under the following bullet:

  • All products containing methadone, hydrocodone, oxycodone, pentazocine or diacetylmorphine (heroin), even if in combination with 2 or more non-narcotic medicinal ingredients.

August 2016:
As of August 24, 2016, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) replaced the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) under the CDSA. The role of health care practitioners is unchanged by the introduction of the ACMPR.

July 2016:
Health Canada no longer requires pre-authorization requests for the local destruction of unserviceable narcotics and controlled drugs. This means that pharmacists may proceed with destruction without notifying and receiving acknowledgment from Health Canada in advance.

Practice Policies and Guidelines

Pharmacy practice policies and guidelines were developed to support the CDSA and NSAA and its regulations. Please refer to the policies and guidelines that are applicable to the CDSA and NSAA to support your understanding of the legislation.