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Nurses Aren't Immune to Prescription Drug Abuse

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, April 29, 2014

There's been a rash of headlines involving healthcare workers abusing—and sometimes overdosing and dying from—prescription drugs. Can you spot the addicted nurses in your organization?


Nurse Jackie

In December, a cardiovascular ICU nurse was found dead in the bathroom of a University of Michigan hospital. Months later, The Ann Arbor News reported that she died from an overdose of the opiate fentanyl and the benzodiazepine midazolam, two sedatives that are used for surgical patients.

Prescription painkiller abuse is a huge and growing problem in the United States. In January, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D) devoted his entire state of the state address to the Green State's drug addiction crisis, which he said, "started as an Oxycontin and prescription drug addiction problem… [and] has now grown into a full-blown heroin crisis."

The problem is so prevalent in our culture that even the title character on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie, who works at a New York City hospital, is an addict.

According to the CDC, drug overdose rates have more than tripled since 1990. More than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2008, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs. And prescription painkillers specifically were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008, more than cocaine and heroin combined, the CDC says.

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1 comments on "Nurses Aren't Immune to Prescription Drug Abuse"


with held by request to maintain animity (5/2/2014 at 5:49 PM)
In 1990 I was diverting drugs from a major medical center in California.Because of a knowledgeable and compassionate Director I was given some choices. I chose to "clean up my act" and was allowed to enter the Diversion Program in the state of California. I spent 5 years in this program under the scrutiny of a microscope (or so it seemed). I have been successful for 24 years at staying sober and clean one day at a time. What I am particularly surprised at the article that makes it sound as if there is still so little seemingly being done throughout the U.S. on this issue. Perhaps I have misunderstood the article. If I have understood it I am wondering why it is still taking so long to get this situation under control nation-wide. I get financial issues, and other excuses but please, my experience with Diversion while a pain in the ass for those 5 years allowed me to become a better person to all; family, patients, friends, my career and myself included. Again and again polls show that nurses are the most trusted disciplines around. California did the heavy lifting, adopt the model and lets get on with rehab and life.