Prescriptions PTCB Test Prep

What are DEA Numbers?

Jan 24th, 2020
what are dea numbers

DEA Numbers and the Pharmacy Technician Exam

As part of the PTCB exam syllabus, candidates are expected to know about DEA Numbers – what they are, why they are used, and how to interpret a DEA number. Here, we review precisely these facts.

As their name suggests, DEA numbers are assigned to healthcare professionals by the US DEA, or Drug Enforcement Administration. The function of the DEA is to combat drug trafficking and distribution of controlled substances throughout the United States.

Established in 1973 by the Reorganization Plan No. 2, and signed into existence by President Richard Nixon, the DEA became the umbrella organization through which the Controlled Substances Act (1970) could be enforced.

What are DEA Numbers?

DEA numbers are assigned to healthcare professionals by the Drug Enforcement Administration, allowing these providers to prescribe controlled substances.

DEA numbers follow a defined structure:

  • 2 initial letters
  • Followed by 6 digits
  • Concluding with 1 check digit

For the first 2 initial letters of the code, the first of those identifies the type of registrant:

  • A – Deprecated
  • B – Hospital/Clinic
  • C – Practitioner
  • D – Teaching institution
  • E – Manufacturer
  • F – Distributor
  • G – Researcher
  • H – Analytical lab
  • J – Importer
  • K – Exporter
  • L – Reverse distributor
  • M – Mid level practitioner
  • P – Narcotic Treatment Program
  • R – Narcotic Treatment Program
  • S – Narcotic Treatment Program
  • T – Narcotic Treatment Program
  • U – Narcotic Treatment Program
  • X – Suboxone/Subutex Prescribing Program

PTCB exam questions often ask about these letters. For example, you may be asked to identify which letter represents the Suboxone/Subutex prescribing program. It’s important that you commit these values to memory.

Next, we need to discuss the second letter, which represents the first letter of the registrant’s surname. If the prescriber was Andrew Markle, the second digit of his DEA code would be M.

If a business address is used instead of a name, “9” is instead used.

The next 6 digits of the DEA code are followed by a final check code. Again, check codes are asked about on the PTCB test. There is a simple way in which you can work out that last digit.

How to Determine the Last Digit

Let’s look at this DEA number: AL455178_

What is the last digit?

To find this, we must take the following steps:

  • Add the first, third, and fifth digits

4 + 5 + 7 = 16

  • Add the second, fourth, and sixth digits – then multiply x 2

5 + 1 + 8 = 14 x 2 = 28

  • Add these two totals together

16 + 28 = 44

The second digit of this total number is the check digit, appearing at the end of the DEA number; in this case – 4 (therefore, his DEA is AL4551784).

Prescriptions that are for controlled substances must have all standard prescription details plus the prescriber’s DEA number. Furthermore, the prescription must be hand-signed. It cannot be stamped.

Final Thoughts

Pharmacy technicians must have a complete understanding of DEA numbers.

Before taking the PTCB exam, make sure you understand where the DEA came from, what functions it has, why DEA numbers are used, how they are calculated, and when are they required to appear on prescriptions.

With these details to hand, you should ace DEA-related questions on your upcoming PTCB exam.

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PTCB Test Prep Author


Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.