Even as healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and governmental agencies call for more regulation and monitoring of prescription medications, the sad truth remains — millions of Americans still misuse prescription drugs. In many cases, prescription opioids are responsible for overdose, addiction, and death. In fact, unintentional drug overdose is now the second highest cause of accidental deaths for Americans following car crashes.
While many factors contribute to this issue, drug diversion continues to play a key role in prescription drug misuse. Put simply, drug diversion refers to the unintended use of prescription medications by someone other than the person the prescription was written for. Drug diversion occurs both in the home and in healthcare settings; anyone can divert drugs, including healthcare professionals.
Tackling the problem of drug diversion isn’t simple, but organizations around the country are working to find solutions to help keep more Americans safe. Preventing drug diversions starts with healthcare providers, who are on the front lines of efforts to combat and prevent unintentional drug overdoses and deaths.
Dealing with pain is a significant challenge for healthcare providers. As the United States population ages, more patients visit their providers for help managing chronic pain. A significant number of these patients are prescribed opioids.
But many medications don’t just stay with patients. According to some statistics, over half of all people who abuse prescription pain medications get them from friends or relatives free of charge. And while some patients do hand out their extra medication, many others are victims of prescription drug theft.
And it’s not just adults who misuse prescription drugs — drug diversion touches the lives of a growing number of young children and teenagers. A recent study showed that:
Unfortunately, drug diversion also occurs in the workplace. It’s not uncommon for patients to complain their pharmacies dispense fewer tablets or capsules than their prescription indicates. And nurses, who may be profoundly affected by the stress of the job, fatigue, caregiver burnout, and extended shift work are at higher risk for diverting drugs from medication dispensaries and narcotic cabinets on the floor. It’s estimated that one in 10 nurses is impaired at work or in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction.
Healthcare providers, including nurses, are in prime position to help stop drug diversion in the home and workplace. But it’s not as simple as educating a patient about why they shouldn’t give extra medication to friends or family members, even though education about the problem is certainly important.
Stopping drug diversion is a multifaceted problem. While there’s no easy answer, you can help prevent diversions by:
Register now for our next FREE CE-accredited webinar on Dec 5th "The Changing Face of America’s Opioid Epidemic: History, Patients and Recommendations."
Guest speaker Siobhan Morse, MHSA, CRC, CAI, MAC, Division Director of Clinical Services, UHS Addiction Services Division will discuss the confluence of factors that led up to this epidemic, with a focus on the related changes in OUD patients and the treatment challenges these changes present. Data collected from a nationwide network of treatment centers will be presented and treatment implications for this changing population will be reviewed.
Click HERE for more information and to register.
Lippincott Professional Development (LPD), winner of the ANCC 2017 and 2018 Premier Prize, will award 1.0 contact hours for this continuing nursing education activity.
LPD is accredited with distinction as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.