There are some professions that seem to lend themselves to substance abuse more than others. Typically, these are high stress, high risk jobs, where the people performing them turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the pressure. One field that has a high percentage of people with substance use disorders is the medical profession. You might think that medical professionals would be less likely to abuse drugs, knowing all of the risks and having seen its effects firsthand, but they’re also uniquely placed to have access to prescription medications in a way that most people don’t. Doctors and nurses also spend a lot of time on their feet and are frequently exhausted and in pain in addition to being stressed. According to the American Nurses Association, one in every ten nurses has a substance use disorder.
In Nashville, Tennessee, one nurse recently had her medical license suspended after using a doctor’s prescription pad to write herself 104 prescriptions for more than 110,000 opioid and muscle relaxer pills. Patricia Tillis, a former nurse at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic at TriStar Centennial, admitted to writing herself prescriptions for 8,764 pills of hydrocodone and 2,880 pills of Soma, a muscle relaxer, over a period of three years. Hydrocodone, which is an ingredient in Vicodin and Norco, is habit forming and can be deadly if one overdoses. Soma, the brand name for a drug called carisoprodol, is a Schedule IV drug, meaning it has a relatively low risk for abuse, but it is misused for its euphoric effects. The two drugs are frequently used in combination (which makes them both more addictive and more dangerous) and sold illegally.
Tills used a prescription pad with blank, pre-signed pages that was intended for writing prescription refills. She said that she was using the prescription medications to treat long-term pain from a surgery that she had previously, and originally claimed that the doctor had given her permission to use the pad, which the doctor denied. She may potentially be able to regain her license if she completes a treatment program. The state has something called the Tennessee Professional Assistance Program, or TnPap, which is designed specifically for medical professionals who suffer from addiction.
If you’re wondering about the doctor who left the prescription pad lying around, there’s no information on whether he’s facing any disciplinary action, but federal law does prohibit physicians from pre-signing prescriptions. Prescriptions have to be signed by the doctor on the day that they are issued. There was one case where a physician pre-signed blank prescriptions to allow Nurse Practitioners to refill the prescriptions of chronic pain patients on the doctor’s day off. Federal agents raided the office and the physician not only lost his medical license but served seven months in a federal prison and was fined $30,000.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.