Can an EMT Assist a Patient With Certain Prescribed Medications?

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) offer critical services to patients, especially in medical emergencies where qualified medical doctors aren’t readily available. However, one of the common questions that people have about EMTs is whether they’re authorized to administer controlled medications.

EMTs can usually assist patients with certain prescribed medications, but it depends on the EMT’s training and certification, the specific situation and conditions, the scope of their practice, and the results of the patient assessment and their authorization.

As an EMT or paramedic student preparing for your National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam, you must familiarize yourself with the various controlled drugs you’re allowed to administer, the circumstances under which you can administer them, and the applicable regulations.

Medications and the NREMT Exam

If you want to pass the NREMT exam, you need to find a pharmacology practice test with different questions about prescribed medicine and the administration protocols involved. If you’re looking for reliable practice tests, quizzes, and general guidance to help you pass your NREMT exam, try The Paramedic Coach.

We have all the resources you need to pass the exam on the first attempt. Other common questions you can expect in your exam include: Why do paramedics give aspirin for chest pain? Can EMTs administer epinephrine? Can an EMT give an EpiPen? Our tools include training and practice resources that provide detailed answers to all these questions so you can enter the exam center feeling prepared. 

Are EMTs Authorized to Administer Controlled Medications?

Yes, EMTs can administer certain controlled drugs, but they have a limited scope of practice. In many American states, EMTs‒especially those with basic EMT training‒are restricted to administering only a few specific drugs like: 

  • Epinephrine for severe allergic reactions
  • Glucose for low blood sugar
  • Naloxone for opioid overdoses

According to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C, intermediate EMTs only have access to Schedule VI controlled substances and can only exchange Schedule VI drugs. Schedule VI controlled drugs are medications with low potential for abuse but may result in physical or psychological dependence. 

These drugs include benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Ativan, and Klonopin. Other Schedule VI medications include antibiotics and maintenance drugs such as simvastatin, penicillin, azithromycin, lisinopril, gabapentin, levothyroxine, metoprolol, and metformin.

Advanced EMTs and paramedics have a broader scope of practice because they’ve undergone advanced training. They’re normally trained to administer a wider range of drugs, including prescribed pain management drugs like morphine, fentanyl, and dilaudid.

According to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), paramedics are allowed to independently prescribe and administer small amounts of controlled medications like morphine, diazepam, and fentanyl to patients in certain circumstances.

Rules and Regulations for Drug Administration by EMTs

EMTs are typically authorized to administer certain medications only under specific conditions and protocols or at the direct command of a medical director. For instance, before administering any drug, you must know what it’s needed for, if the patient has an allergy to it, and the safe and effective dose.

EMTs and other practitioners in the EMS industry must ensure that the prescription and administration of all prescribed medications conform to all state and federal legal requirements. You can access the rules and regulations on controlled substances through the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) website.

The Bottom Line

The ability of an EMT to prescribe and administer controlled drugs is restricted and varies by jurisdiction and level of training. For more information on this and other potential NREMT questions, check out The Paramedic Coach’s resources today!

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