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Prescription drug abuse affects 100,000-plus medical workers every year, says USA Today study
Have you noticed any change in the behavior of your doctor lately? Or any of his staff? If you answered “Yes” you might be looking at some side effects of prescription drug abuse, dependence or addiction.
USA Today has published the results of a nationwide survey that found at least 100,000 medical professionals a year are trapped by prescription drug abuse and addiction. And their study supports an earlier one by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) from back in 2007. In that study, at least 103,000 medical personnel across the country were found to be addicted to, or abusing, prescription drugs.
Drug dependence is an unfortunate situation for doctors, nurses and other public and private medical personnel. But it’s very bad news for patients. Medical personnel told USA Today that patients treated by drugged personnel are “lucky” to escape harm. They admitted treating patients while impaired, and only hoped they hadn’t caused any harm – they were too stoned to know for sure.
Countless lawsuits by patients claiming to have been harmed by medical errors are part of the public record. And many errors have been traced to poor judgment due to prescription drug abuse.
Three infamous cases caused by medical technicians involved infecting patients with the hepatitis C virus. In separate hospitals, unknown to each other, these technicians were already infected with hepatitis C. They were all addicted to prescription painkillers themselves, like hydrocodone or oxycodone. And like most addicts, they would go to any lengths to support their habit.
So what did they do? This is almost unbelievable. They stole syringes loaded with narcotic painkillers intended for patients, and injected the drugs into themselves. But then, they refilled the syringes with saline – the syringes now contaminated with their own hep-C-infected blood – and put them back on the patients’ trays.
One of the addicts, a travelling cardiac technician, was recently sentenced to 39 years in prison in a federal New Hampshire court for infecting dozens of patients in four hospitals with his own hep-C infection. David Kwiatkowski, a former lab technician at Exeter Hospital in NH, had already been fired from four previous med tech jobs for drug use and theft. Federal investigators have so far identified 46 patients in New Hampshire, Maryland, Kansas and Pennsylvania infected with the same hep-C strain he carries.
How many patients in all have been put at risk like this? No one knows, but according to ongoing investigations, it’s dozens and dozens.
This situation of drug-impaired medical care isn’t news in the medical community. Or to malpractice insurers and lawyers. But it’s been hushed up as far as the public goes, until now. The USA Today series is still reverberating.
The paper reported that far from enough is being done to solve the problem, even though drug abuse and patient risks are well known in clinics and hospitals.
Most hospitals and clinics have poor security for their drug supplies – no closed-circuit video and inadequate computerized tracking systems – so almost anyone can easily get their hands on drugs. No state yet requires medical personnel to undergo drug testing. And when someone is actually caught stealing drugs, disciplinary action is rarely taken.
SAMHSA says one out of every 10 medical practitioners in America will abuse drugs or alcohol at some point in their career. That leaves a pretty high risk of exposure to possibly dangerous medical care for patients everywhere.
It may sound like a hopeless situation. But we can make a difference. We need to stay vigilant and not be afraid to speak up and question the actions of medical personnel when something seems fishy.
And this is really important. If you know a medical worker who needs help with a drug problem, you need to call Novus right now. Prescription drug abuse can be treated, and it starts with safe and effective medical prescription drug detox, like that offered here at Novus Medical Detox Center.
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