Nurses at Risk for Drug Addiction

by: Mike Miller

Perhaps you have been reading about the huge problem with drug use and abuse among healthcare professionals. There's been a rash of headlines involving healthcare workers abusing—and sometimes overdosing and dying from—prescription drugs. 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. The problem is so prevalent in our culture that even the title character played by Edie Falco on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie, who works at a New York City hospital, is an addict. As reported in

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.

Nurses and other healthcare providers are not immune to addiction, as a scan of recent headlines reveals.

This is the first in a series of blogs looking at the problem of drug use and abuse among our healthcare professionals. If you have any comments, I would appreciate your input here at the blog for