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5 Things to Know About Drug Diversion

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   October 04, 2016

Drug diversion and addiction among nurses is not uncommon, but it is often misunderstood. An expert shares insights to improve understanding.

Have you ever worked with a colleague who diverted drugs to feed an addiction?

Chances are you have, though you may not have known it, since drug diversion and addiction are often very secretive issues. Most estimates put nurses' drug and alcohol misuse at around 6% to 10%, or about one in 10 nurses.

This makes it highly likely that at some point in your career you'll encounter a colleague or staff member who is, or will, divert and misuse drugs.

Yet, diversion and addiction are still misunderstood, says Laura Wright, PhD, CRNA, associate professor in the Department of Acute, Chronic, and Continuing Care at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Nursing.

10 Ways to Halt Drug Diversion by Healthcare Workers

"Addiction is a disease, it's not a moral defect," she says. "But, when I talk about addiction, I still get people asking me, 'Why would they ever do that? That's an awful thing. How could they do that to their children?'"

Here are five things Wright, who is a member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Peer Assistance Advisors Committee, (AANA) wants nurses to know about drug diversion and addiction.

1. Addiction is a disease.

Wright describes addiction as a "disease of choice." What does this mean? I shared with her that I once had a colleague who, after going to a new employer, was caught diverting drugs.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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