As per a study by the American Nurses Association’s Peer Assistance Program in 2009, one in ten nurses was found to be hooked on drugs. Moreover, 14 percent of the nurses were found to be addicted to substance abuse, which included alcohol as well. This finding did not surprise the officials because drug abuse has been commonly noticed in medical professionals for some time. They have been found to be writing prescriptions for fake patients in order to acquire those drugs for themselves. This has created a reverberation in the medical community.
Reasons For Increasing Drug Abuse
The primary reason observed for the increasing drug abuse by medical professionals is the fact that they have extremely easy access to these drugs. The highest rate of addiction to these drugs is found in anesthesiologists because of the strength of the drugs that they deal with. ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and emergency room nurses are found to be the second in line to anesthesiologists.
Another very common reason observed for increasing drug abuse is stress and being physically tired. In addition to being tempted by the availability of drugs all around them, the nurses and doctors also have to deal with sick and dying patients, and there are times when they are not even able to help despite trying hard and to the best of their abilities. Thus, they end up feeling very helpless and in need of relaxing substances. This makes the use of drugs even more tempting for them. Long working hours and rotating shifts of work also intensify the stress levels of medical professionals.
Drug abuse would also depend on the family history and temperament of the doctors and nurses. Professionals facing any sort of a disorder in their personal lives, or those having family and friends under the influence of drugs are more prone to drug abuse. Similarly, medical professionals with weak will power and an ignorant attitude towards the harmful effects of drug abuse are also more prone to this addiction.
How To Help
The American Nurses Association recognized how important it is to get rid of this addiction in nurses, and thus it took the initiative to provide recovery services to the affected nurses. They have also listed the names and contact numbers of the organizations that help in getting peer support for drug addicts. Another initiative taken by the ANA is to list the symptoms and behaviors commonly noticed in the people affected by drug abuse.
As a punishment for the doctors or nurses caught under addiction, some officials recommend prosecution. However, some doctors and nurses can also be punished in a more lenient way. For example, Dr. Anne Johnston in Vermont was found to be writing fake prescriptions, and was only asked to continue practicing under a limited or probationary license instead of being prosecuted. These limits were applied to her prescribing controlled medicines.
This situation is clearly dangerous for the patients. This is because a patient always feels comfortable in visiting a medical professional who is sane, thinks clearly and is able to prescribe the correct treatment and medicines. However, this may not be possible if the professional is under the influence of drugs, and thus can risk the safety of the patients. Hence it is important for the patients to be proactive and immediately report any signs of drug abuse that they observe in their medical source. In this scenario, they should also switch to another professional so that they are in safe hands. A doctor under the influence is dangerous, indeed.
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