Nursing (NURS) 531

Controlled Drugs and Substances for NP Prescribers


Delivery Mode: Paced/home-study online

Credits: 1

Area of Study: Applied Studies

Prerequisite: NURS 526 and NURS 527

Faculty: Faculty of Health Disciplines

Centre: Centre for Nursing and Health Studies


This course is part of a program of study leading to the Post-Master's Diploma: Nurse Practitioner, or the Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner) degree.

In Nursing 531 students study:

  • Provincial and federal regulations governing prescription of narcotics and controlled substances;
  • Standardized approaches to the assessment of clients for whom controlled drugs and substances may be prescribed
  • Evidence-based, systemic approaches and tools for the prescription of narcotics and controlled substances
  • Comprehensive, effective therapeutic treatment and management options including non- pharmacological alternative modalities
  • Multidisciplinary approaches to care related to clients on narcotics and controlled substances including appropriate referral
  • Addiction, drug tolerance, drug -seeking behavior and drug tapering

Course Goals

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss beliefs and attitudes about prescribing narcotics and controlled substances among health care providers
  2. Discuss the pharmacology of a range of narcotics and controlled substances
  3. Assess and identify clients who are suitable for narcotics and controlled substances following the Canadian Guideline recommendations
  4. Define the difference between opioid dependence and opioid addiction
  5. Identify clients who are at risk for narcotics and controlled substances addiction and misuse
  6. Explain the rationale for using a narcotics and controlled substances agreement plan
  7. Explain the rationale for including urine drug testing in an opioid maintenance care plan
  8. Identify the legal requirements of prescribing narcotics and controlled substances
  9. Safely conduct an opioid trial by following the Canadian Guideline recommendations
  10. Monitor clients on long term narcotics and controlled substances therapy by following the Canadian Guideline recommendations
  11. Safely taper a client off narcotics and controlled substances
  12. Discuss potential non-pharmacologic, alternative modalities and multidisciplinary approaches to care.
  13. Outline appropriate documentation related to CDS prescribing including informed consent

Course Materials

NURS 531 comprises online content.


No textbook

Other Materials

Textbooks and readings from other Nurse Practitioner courses will be used as appropriate.

Course Structure

NURS 531 is an asynchronous online course. Students have one year to complete the course but must have completed this course prior to completion of NURS530.

Other Textbooks

Textbooks and readings from other Advanced Nursing Practice courses will be used as appropriate.

Technical Requirements

Computer System

In order to successfully complete this course, the student must own or have ready access to certain computer hardware and software programs. For complete and up-to-date information on the minimum computer requirements required to complete the graduate nursing courses, visit the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies technical site.

Students are expected to connect to an Internet Service Provider at their own expense and to secure audio speaker or headphones for the required Clinical Forum events in the course.

Course Outline

NURS 531 consists of the following 7 units:

Unit 1: Introduction and Overview of the Course
In Unit 1, the student will expand on their previous exploration of the community-as-partner approach to community health development by focusing on the principle of empowerment and self-efficacy.

Unit 2: Perspectives, Legislation and Regulation
Module 2 focuses on the legislation and regulation of controlled drugs and substances in Canada. Also reviewed are changes made to the New Classes of Practitioners regulations, and the Food and Drug and Narcotic Control regulations. An overview of the Federal documentation requirements for those who prescribe controlled substances is also presented.

Unit 3: Opioids and Practitioner Perspectives on Pain
In Module 3 students will review the barriers to the effective assessment and management of pain. This module also provides an overview of the physiology of pain and the pharmacokineticsand pharmacodynamics of opioids, including a summary of action of various opioids and receptors involved in their action. Using the Canadian guidelines, students will explore what is required when initiating opioid therapy, how to conduct an opioids trial and how to monitor long term opioid use.

Unit 4: Clinical Tools
Module 4 explores clinical tools that can be used when prescribing opioids, including mental health assessment tools, urine drug screening and opioid agreements. In this unit students will become familiar with the recommendations for safe and effective prescribing of opioids.

Unit 5: Benzodiazepines
Module 5 addresses benzodiazepines, including the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of benzodiazepines, as well as indications for their use. Students will learn several strategies to taper clients off this type of medication and will be encouraged to look at alternatives for anxiety and insomnia.

Unit 6: Seizure Management Drugs and Stimulants
This module provides an overview of controlled and non-controlled medications used to treat seizures, and reviews the use of stimulants. In addition to controlled substances such as barbiturates and stimulants, other drug classes discussed include steroids, hydantoins and valproates.

Unit 7: Case Studies
In this unit students will use a case study approach to apply concepts related to the management of patients requiring narcotics or controlled drugs.

Assessment Structure

The assessment structure for NURS 531 is based on a multiple choice exam completed at the end of the course. A minimum grade of 70 is required to achieve a passing grade on the course:

  • Final Examination (minimum passing grade 70%)

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, November 3, 2015.

Updated June 27 2016 by Student & Academic Services