Drug Enforcement Administration

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Part of the United States Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has law enforcement, intelligence, and regulatory functions for chemicals classed as controlled substances.

In its regulatory function, it has oversight over the manufacture, distribution, prescribing, and use of various chemicals used in medicine and research.

The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.

DEA organization

It has a variety of national and international functions.


DEA was formed from a merger of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, in the Department of the Treasury, and the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control, in the Food and Drug Administration in what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW). HEW subsequently split into the Department of Health &Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education.

Government research into the medical aspects of drug abuse is in the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health under HHS.

Domestic law enforcement

The DEA is responsible for investigating and preparing for the prosecution of major violators of controlled substance laws, who operate across state and national borders. It has a similar role in reducing violence and intimidation by groups and individuals in the illicit drug trade. Investigation and preparation for the prosecution of major violators of controlled substance laws operating at interstate and international levels.

Where legally authorized, it handles the seizure and forfeiture of assets used in, or resulting from, illegal drug trade.

It assists federal, state and local law enforcement officials on mutual drug enforcement efforts and enhancement of such efforts through exploitation of potential interstate and international investigations beyond local or limited federal jurisdictions and resources.

International law enforcement

DEA represents the United States of America in cooperative work with United Nations (e.g., UN United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODOC)), Interpol, and other organizations on matters relating to international drug control programs. This may involve working on international treaties in the relevant areas. It is responsible, under the policy guidance of the Secretary of State and U.S. Ambassadors, for all programs associated with drug law enforcement counterparts in foreign countries.

International intelligence and drug control cooperation

Management of a national drug intelligence program in cooperation with federal, state, local, and foreign officials to collect, analyze, and disseminate strategic and operational drug intelligence information. In this role, its Office of National Security Intelligence is a member of the United States intelligence community, and has the personnel and facilities to work with intelligence information of all types and classifications.

Coordination and cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies, and with foreign governments, in programs designed to reduce the availability of illicit abuse-type drugs on the United States market through nonenforcement methods such as crop eradication, crop substitution, and training of foreign officials.

Managing and enforcing legal controlled substances

DEA enforces the Controlled Substances Act as they pertain to the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of legally produced controlled substances. This includes the issuance of controlled substance licenses to legal manufacturers and distributors and retail pharmacies that sell such substances, as well as licensing healthcare professionals to write prescriptions. Its Office of Diversion Control has technical oversight over the electronic prescribing of controlled substances.

These programs also cover the control of "dual-use" chemicals that can be used in the synthesis or preparation of controlled substances, as well as other valid chemical purposes. DEA publishes lists of such chemicals.