Under the Influence?

One of my readers sent me a link to a study that concluded that about 10% of Certified Registered Nurse-Anesthetists (CRNAs) “misused” controlled drugs. It noted that the results were comparable to other studies of anesthesiologists and registered nurses, except for the drugs of choice.

Pharmacists may also be prone to this (although having worked as a pharmacy tech for many years, I only ever heard of one pharmacist in our area who became addicted to drugs). But think about it (and I’ll speak of this from the perspective of being in a pharmacy) — there are shelves and shelves full of drugs that are controlled because they are addictive or highly addictive, and/or produce some sort of “high” or other desirable effect to some people.

I was never tempted to take drugs — I rarely even take over-the-counter drugs — but it could be a very tempting environment to many people. It would have been easy to take a few pills without being noticed; or perhaps even a few bottles and think it would not be found out. Just as pharmacy employees can be tempted, so can other people who are around drugs a lot. And anesthesiologists and anesthetists are certainly around controlled substances a lot.

In one way, you might think they’d be less likely to be tempted, because they see first-hand the negative aspects of drugs. Although I was not tempted to take drugs, if I had been, seeing the druggies coming in on a daily basis trying to get just a few pills to keep going would have been enough to turn me off. It was really quite sad having people come in practically begging to get their pain pills filled “just a little bit early,” and I never wanted to end up in that place, so never set foot down that path to start with. But in another way, having easy and constant access to drugs can become a great temptation.

The likelihood is that every health care professional you meet will be completely sober, not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. (The study did not say whether these CRNAs actually operated while under the influence, or if they kept their illicit drug activity restricted to “off duty” hours. Still, considering that they likely abused drugs they used on other patients, it is a possibility that they were abusing drugs on hospital property. Which is scary.) However, there is the possibility that someone you meet — whether doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, anesthetist, pharmacist, pharmacy tech, etc. — will be operating under the influence of some sort of controlled substance. So always be alert when interacting with people (especially those who are giving you drugs and are in charge of keeping you safe), to make sure that they are completely sober. Most likely, you’ll never need to use this advice. But it’s good to remember anyway.


One Response

  1. The first thing I think of is that a woman who is in enough pain to get an epidural probably isn’t paying attention to the state of her medical caregivers. Family and other labor support need to keep this in mind that if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

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