First and foremost, we want to call out all of the amazing work that America’s health workers are doing amid the COVID-19 health pandemic. But, as we all know, addiction has no prejudices and can strike anywhere. Sadly, nurses, doctors and medical professionals are not immune to falling prey to a dependency. And one of the concerns there, is that people in the field have much easier access to dangerous prescription meds.
NPR recently wrote an expose on the rising trend of drug thefts within the medical profession. According to stats they gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic, approximately one in every 10 healthcare workers falls victim to a substance abuse disorder.
The theft issue has led to some very dire consequences. Not only are healthcare workers damaging themselves with these substances, they are often taking prescriptions meant for others. This means that people in need may be getting deprived of their proper medications. A common scenario is for healthcare workers to pour out a section of a pill bottle for themselves, cutting it short. This can have a major impact on patients who legitimately need the drugs and come to find their supply has been shorted.
Medical rep Kimberly New spoke with NPR about this growing epidemic, calling it out as a very serious problem.
“This type of behavior is extremely common and the consequences can be very very grave,” New explained. “Patients will be left to linger in pain and not receive the doses that they were supposed to receive. Many hospitals are experiencing more deaths, medications are disappearing and no one is able to stop and do anything about it.”
Several stats released in the article point to an increase in this type of behavior across U.S. hospitals. NPR revealed that there have been roughly 3,600 cases of alleged drug theft at healthcare facilities over the past five years (with nearly 300 in 2020 alone). They also added that there could be many more instances that fall under the radar. Small thefts here and there can be much more difficult to track. Hospitals may also hold back on releasing this type of info, due to embarrassment or an effort to protect employees.
That may change, however. According to NPR, the DEA’s office is beginning to examine medication thefts much more closely and has reportedly opened a major investigation into drug security practices at major health clinics throughout the U.S.