Controlled Substance FAQs - Background Screening

Who must undergo a security screening, and how does the screening process work?

As part of the DEA registration, every ’Researcher’ category registrant is required to undergo a DEA background check/screening.  No additional screening is required by the University (also see Q23).  Staff members working under a licensed researcher are not required to complete a DEA background/security screening.

Do research investigators applying for DEA registration(s) undergo background screening through University Human Resources?

No. As part of the application for registration, a background check/screening is conducted by the DEA when the application is submitted.  For any questions related to background checks of University employees, please contact the following University of Iowa administrative officers: Keith Becker, Senior. HR Specialist, Employee Service, phone 335-2664, James Jorgensen, Deputy Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel; phone 335.0400 

I am a Principal Investigator (PI) and will be identified as a ‘Researcher’ in the DEA application for a research study, but I don’t plan to personally use the controlled substances.  Do I still need to complete a DEA background check? 

Yes. If you are listed as the ‘Researcher’ in the DEA application you must answer all liability questions in the DEA application form (Section 5- Liability) and your application will be screened by the DEA. As the licensed researcher, you have the primary responsibility for the research project and for overseeing the safety and security of all research materials; consequently, you must fully answer the liability questions in the initial and renewal applications. 

Do authorized agents and authorized laboratory personnel (known as daily users) undergo a DEA background check or screening?

No. Authorized agents and authorized laboratory personnel are not required to go through a DEA background check or screening.  Licensed researchers are ultimately responsible for the management of controlled substances acquired under their DEA registration or license. Therefore, each licensed researcher is responsible for checking staff’s credentials, authorizing specific roles, and providing required training for handling controlled substances.

For any questions related to security screening checks of University employees, please contact the following University of Iowa administrative officers:

  • Keith Becker, Sr. HR Specialist, University Employment Services, 335-2664
  • James Jorgensen, Deputy Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel; phone 335.0400.

I am a licensed researcher with the DEA. Do my trainees or graduate students need a DEA background check?

No. Any individual employed in research studies conducted in the licensed researcher’s laboratory who has access to the controlled substance(s) must be approved by the licensed researcher.  Licensed researchers are ultimately responsible for checking each staff’s credentials for handling the controlled substances.

As the licensed researcher, do I need to notify anyone if an authorized agent or authorized laboratory personnel transfers to another lab or leaves the University?

No. There is no need to notify the DEA or EHS if an authorized agent or authorized laboratory personnel terminates employment with a given laboratory or with the University. However, licensed researchers are ultimately responsible to ensure the security of the controlled substances under their license and maintain an up-to-date inventory.

Authorized agents and authorized laboratory personnel in my laboratory are employed by VA Medical Center and are not the University employees. Do they need a background check?

Maybe. It depends on the VAMC’s employment policy. The University of Iowa DEA-licensed researcher is ultimately responsible for checking the individual credentials for handling the controlled substances.  Any individual (including authorized agents and/or authorized laboratory personnel and graduate students employed at VAMC) who handle controlled substances in University of Iowa laboratories under the direction of the licensed researcher must be authorized by the University of Iowa licensed researcher.

Who oversees the controlled substances program at the University?

Both the DEA and the State of Iowa - Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners (IBPE) oversee controlled substances.  No UI office oversees the program.  EHS provides information and resources to assist researcher investigators in their management of their registrations with the DEA and IBPE.