Controlled substances are drugs that have significant abuse risks. For a complete list of controlled substances, refer to the Schedules in Parts G and J of Health Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Health Canada exemption is required to work with controlled substances. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (“CDSA”) prohibits activities related to controlled substances. Researchers requiring a controlled substance for research purposes must apply for and obtain a Controlled Substance Exemption under subsection 56(1) of the CDSA. This exemption is issued by Health Canada and authorizes researchers to purchase, if applicable, possess and use a specific controlled substance in specific quantities for a specific research purpose.

To apply for an Exemption for the Purposes of Scientific Research a copy of the "Application Form for an Exemption to use a Controlled Substance for Scientific Purposes" must be completed and submitted to the Office of Controlled Substances (OCS).  The application process for exemption could take 6-8 weeks.

The storage conditions and physical security requirements for controlled substances depend on the security level and classification assigned to the drug by Health Canada. The researcher must ensure that the storage conditions and physical security for controlled substances, including mixtures and dilutions, duly in their possession satisfies the requirements of Health Canada’s Directive on Physical Security Requirements for Controlled Substances.

To apply for exemption, you should be a Principal Investigator (PI). Exemptions are protocol, principal investigator, site and substance specific. The PI must follow the conditions/directions outlined in the exemption and must develop a protocol for training, handling, storage and disposal of controlled substances  

Once you receive the exemption letter, provide a copy to EHS ( and the Office of Research Services (