Recognizing the abuse of amphetamines in healthcare practitioners is difficult. They are used to seeing addicts so they know what others look for. Doctors and nurses hide the abuse of amphetamines exceedingly well. Sometimes only subtle behaviors give their drug use away to patients and colleagues. Supervisors often only discover the drug use when it becomes a serious problem and affects their work or during a random drug test. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stimulants like amphetamines are widely abused. Doctors and nurses might start abusing them as early as college. Doctors alone have a long history of abuse and drug use. The key to recognizing amphetamine abuse in doctors and nurses is to know the signs, the symptoms, and the effects of amphetamines.
The signs of amphetamine abuse
Prescription opioids followed by amphetamines are the drugs of choice for healthcare professionals. This is why it is important to recognize that signs of amphetamine abuse among doctors and nurses are similar to those in other populations but a few of them are specific to the healthcare field. Many of these signs involve job related behaviors. These signs are:
- working nights or rotating shifts for better access to drugs,
- requesting emergency and critical care work where access to drugs is higher and the environment is fast paced and things are lost in the confusion,
- precise knowledge of specific stimulants and their effects,
- pain in the joints or muscles, particularly the jaw,
- working excessive hours or constant overtime,
- discrepancies in paperwork particularly where it pertains to drugs,
In addition to these signs, doctors and nurses may practice something called drug diversion. This is when a healthcare professional diverts medication from patients and other sources to themselves. Some typical signs of diversion are:
- volunteering to work late or come in early,
- regularly signing out large amounts of prescription amphetamines,
- volunteering to medicate another doctor or nurse’s patient for them,
- excessive drug waste,
- medications signed out for patients who are dead or discharged.
Diverting medication is an illegal practice that can lead to legal consequences. It is difficult to catch due to the nature of a nurse or doctor’s job.