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Prescription Medication Abuse by Medical Professionals

August 30, 2016 [AYR, ON] – Substance misuse among medical professionals was back in the forefront recently after a Kitchener woman was charged with impaired driving and criminal negligence causing bodily harm for allegedly using drugs she stole from a patient while working as a home care nurse (see article Home-Care Nurse Charged After Allegedly Taking Drugs From Patient). While facing charges, the court ordered her to not act in a care capacity for anyone or for employment purposes.

prescription drugs

When a case like this occurs, it raises questions about the issue of prescription drug use among medical professionals and about prevention. What can be done to avoid patients from being put at risk? Would alcohol and drug testing make a difference?

Some medical ethicists have pushed for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to undergo random testing for substance use, misuse and abuse – saying that this type of testing should be part of the discussion to make medicine safer.

Some proponents of random drug testing for medical professionals argue that because doctors and nurses have lives in their hands, they should be treated the same as others in safety sensitive occupations, such as airplane pilots, train conductors and truck drivers. Random testing for alcohol and drugs has been an effective deterrent in the transportation industry. Between 1996 and 2010, DriverCheck performed 240,000 random drug tests for DOT-regulated employers in Canada and saw positive rates among drivers decrease by more than 80 percent.

Drug use data (cited by USA Today) from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests over 100,000 health care professionals, including nurses and medical technicians are misusing or abusing prescription drugs. Many of these people turn to narcotic pain relievers to cope with stress, and some experts say a significant number of new medical residents are on ADHD medication.

In the U.S., the State of California considered subjecting doctors to routine drug testing but the bill was defeated.

In Canada, the types of drug testing health care workers typically undergo are return to duty, follow-up testing and reasonable cause, for those who have gone through treatment for substance abuse problems or caught for theft of prescription medication. These donors are usually entered into testing programs by health care facilities or through programs offered and/or monitored by licensing bodies. Testing is typically conducted under the facilities or licensing body’s own individual policies.

Aside from these testing scenarios, it appears there are no universal mandatory testing requirements for the health care worker industry and nothing is visible on the horizon.

What are your thoughts? Share them with us by emailing us at PR@DriverCheck.ca or tweet us @DriverCheckCA.

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About DriverCheck Inc.:

As Fitness for Duty experts, DriverCheck’s top priority is the safety of your staff and workplace. Since its inception in 1996, DriverCheck has grown to become the leading provider of medical testing and assessments in the country. Physician-owned and operated, DriverCheck strives to provide superior medicine and best practices in all medical testing. DriverCheck was one of the first Third Party Administrators in Canada to offer DOT-regulated alcohol and drug testing. Currently, DriverCheck serves over 5,000 employers, with access to over 1,000 testing facilities strategically located across the country, providing easy access to all medical services. With a proven track record of sustainability, DriverCheck conducts over 240,000 medical tests annually in a variety of industries including transportation, oil & gas, mining, government, forestry and medical. Our diverse service offerings include alcohol and drug testing, fatigue management, occupational health and injury management programs (including remote medical services). DriverCheck’s head office is located in the village of Ayr, the heart of Ontario’s transportation hub.

To learn more about DriverCheck, visit www.DriverCheck.ca or call 1 (800) 463-4310.