What does a Diversion Investigator do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 February 2019
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A diversion investigator (DI) is a law enforcement officer who is concerned with the practice of diversion, in which controlled substances are used for recreational uses. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) utilizes diversion investigators extensively to help it enforce the Controlled Substances Act, and numerous other nations have law enforcement officers who act in a similar capacity. This type of work can be varied and provides an opportunity to interact with people who work in many different capacities.

Diversion is a serious and historic problem. Ever since medications which could potentially be used recreationally have been in use, people have been abusing them. Opioids are a class of drug commonly diverted for uses other than those intended, and stimulants, depressants, and pseudoephedrines are also similarly abused. The concern with diversion is that it can lead to health risks because people use drugs in ways which are not recommended or are given drugs which are not safe to use by unscrupulous dealers who take advantage of the desire to access controlled substances. A diversion investigator wants to keep the supply of drugs limited to appropriate uses.


The activities of a diversion investigator can vary widely. One task involves constant scrutiny of the supply chain for controlled substances including pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals. This includes inspection of manufacturing and packaging facilities, investigations of pharmacists and other people who handle controlled substances, and audits of controlled substance handling policies. A diversion investigator might, for example, show up unannounced at a veterinary clinic and ask to see the controlled substances log, the drug safe where dangerous drugs are kept, and the pharmacy.

Diversion investigators can also inspect prescriptions, investigate doctors who appear to be behaving suspiciously, and investigate suspected dealers in prescription drugs and other controlled substances. This can include investigation of online pharmacies, some of which are suspected to be fronts for diversion. The goal of the diversion investigator is to ensure that the sale of drugs and other controlled substances is limited to legitimate uses in which the drugs will be tightly controlled and used responsibly and as directed.

People who work in this capacity of law enforcement must pass a background check which is used to determine whether or not they can work safely and honorably in law enforcement. They also usually need to meet physical performance standards, to demonstrate that they have no conflicts of interest, and to be prepared to sign up for a minimum term of service to repay the investment of the law enforcement agency which provides training. Some drug diversion investigators come from a background in other law enforcement agencies or medical practice, while others have no prior relevant work experience.


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