Reports Show Spike in Substance-Abusing Nurses

The wave of prescription drug addiction continues to hit hard — even impacting hospitals and clinics in unprecedented levels. This time, however, it’s not just the patients who are affected. It’s their practitioners. Recent reports show a spike in substance-abusing nurses, leading to such shocking displays as the nurse in Georgia who injected herself in a practice room full of people.

You may wonder what the ramifications are. Many politicians feel they are too lax when it comes to drug abuse among nurses. In Georgia, particularly, legislators are pushing hard for stricter policies against nurse diversion.

No Mandatory Reporting in Georgia

The state of Georgia requires no mandatory reporting against nurses caught diverting (abusing drugs), and many experts blame this point for the recent surge. Nurses who are caught receive a suspension, four years’ probation, drug treatment, drug testing and job restrictions. It is rare for a nurse to have his/her license suspended indefinitely. Yet many of the reports show nurses who are repeat offenders, including one who was caught at four facilities over a five-month period before her license was suspended.

In 2011, there were only 34 cases of disciplinary actions against registered nurses in Georgia. There have been more than 82 cases so far this year, with 63 involving drugs or alcohol. Fifty-two involved prescription drugs.

The reports show abuse, theft and several instances of nurses taking drugs from patients. It’s clear that some are willing to go to desperate measures to feed their addiction.

Legislators are pushing for mandatory reporting, which would require coworkers to report even suspicion of drug abuse or theft. Not only that, the report would be directly sent to the Georgia Board of Nursing, curbing the tendency for nurses to job-hop when they get caught.

The primary concern is patient safety. Substance-abusing healthcare workers are prone to life-threatening mistakes. In many cases, especially when it comes to stimulants such as Adderall, practitioners can become abusive in order to get what they want. A high-profile example of this is in the case of anesthetist Paul Serdula, who was jailed last year for sexual assault and videotaping patients. At the time, Serdula was on a multitude of potent prescription drugs.

Drug Diversion

The Drug Enforcement Agency uses the term “diversion” to describe the use of prescription drugs for recreational purposes. The term derives from the fact that users are diverting the drug from its original medicinal purpose. Diversion Investigators are employed by the DEA to investigate this specific phenomenon.

Drugs that are diverted include prescription opioids (morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine), methamphetamine, DXM (the active ingredient in cough and cold medication), non-opioid depressants, and stimulants such as amphetamine, which act similarly to cocaine.

Physicians and nurses blame diversion on job stress and easy accessibility. Prescription drugs are extremely addictive and in many cases more potent than street drugs.

About the Author: Bruce Callahan is a health and wellness writer. He recommends that if you would like more information on this topic and others regarding drug abuse and addiction, to visit

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in General Psychology
Subscribe to Our
Free Psychology Newsletter!

Enter your email address: