Many people in Minnesota have heard stories of nurses and other medical personnel who are arrested for stealing prescription medications and painkillers, but there is often little discussion about the addictions that take over these nurses’ lives. The Star Tribune recently covered one nursing aide’s story of a drug addiction that started after his oncologist prescribed OxyContin for two years.
The former police officer was forced to retire from the Minneapolis police department because of adrenal cancer and other illnesses, but he was able to get a job as a nursing aide with a local hospital. From the beginning of his cancer, however, his doctors gave him an extremely powerful and addictive painkiller. While the former aide has said that anyone will become addicted to the drug if it is taken for more than 30 days, his doctors were giving him OxyContin for over two years.
By the time he took the hospital job, he was already addicted to painkillers, something he mentioned to his supervisor. Although he was enrolled in an outpatient treatment program, it did not have the necessary components to kick his habit. Several years and several tries later, he was able to find a suitable program that has allowed him to break his addiction to opiates and painkillers, but not before police arrested and convicted him on drug charges.
While police and the justice system focus on how detrimental drug use can be, they fail to address some of the critical sources of drug addiction — physicians. If this man’s doctors had not prescribed OxyContin for such a long period of time, it is unlikely that he would have become addicted to drugs and eventually convicted of drug crimes. Until there are greater restrictions on how medicines are prescribed, it seems that drug addictions will continue to flourish.
Source: Star Tribune, “Addict in nurse’s scrubs: Drugs ‘take over’,” Tony Kennedy, Nov. 13, 2011