3 signs healthcare workers abuse drugs

Healthcare workers should be on the lookout for a few telltale indications of substance abuse or addiction among coworkers, according to HemOnc Today.

Substance abuse among healthcare workers is a major problem, one which affects more than 100,000 professionals. People in the healthcare field are particularly at-risk for drug abuse and addiction due to the high-stress environment and their access to and knowledge of prescription drugs. Here are three signs an employee or coworker may be abusing drugs, according to the article:

  1. Behavioral changes: People abusing drugs may noticeably change their behavior, according to a brochure from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. This could include volunteering hours with patients who use pain medication to steal it for themselves, or typically outgoing coworkers becoming more isolated and withdrawn, the article states.

  2. Long, unexplained absences: Addicted healthcare workers may frequently make long trips to the restroom or to other isolated areas such as broom closets. In some cases, these trips are to inject drugs, pass out or sleep off their effects, including nausea, vomiting or other symptoms of their substance abuse, according to the article.

  3. Reports of ineffective pain medicine from patients: Healthcare workers who steal drugs from patients often replace them with something else. For example, workers who divert fentanyl often drain the vials with syringes and replace it with saline. If an inordinate number of patients complain about ineffective medication, it may be a sign that it is being stolen, even if there is none missing on paper.

"Any combinations of these signs in a coworker could be good reason to have a discussion with that individual or to ask other coworkers if they've noticed any unusual behavior," the article states. "While it may be uncomfortable, the sooner a problem is addressed, the safer everyone will be."

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read the brochure (.pdf)