Drug Abuse Among Medical Professionals is Alarmingly Common, Says Study

Jacky Gale | April 21st, 2014

Doctor Negligence – Substance Abuse Common Amongst Doctors in U.S.

Doctors have a professional and ethical responsibility to safeguard the public from drug abuse by dispensing controlled substances properly. Unfortunately, a recent piece from USA Today demonstrates the alarming prevalence of doctor negligence stemming from the abuse of controlled substances.

The USA Today review evaluated both state and federal records and discovered hundreds of recent disciplinary notices and legal actions against healthcare professionals related to substance abuse.

One of the problems fueling this growing epidemic may be the healthcare setting itself. Physicians, residents, and other healthcare professionals work notoriously long hours in high-stress positions with little professional or psychological support. It has also been proposed that healthcare professionals may think themselves immune to substance abuse since they have a higher level of knowledge regarding such matters.

Regardless of the reason, it has been estimated that over 100,000 doctors and other medical professionals have an addiction or are struggling with substance abuse. The drug of choice among this demographic appears to be narcotics, such as fentanyl and oxycodone.

Drug diversion has endangered thousands

Another factor contributing to the growing epidemic of substance abuse among healthcare workers is their easy access to drugs. “Drug diversion” is the term given to the theft of drugs from hospitals and clinics by healthcare workers. When doctors self-medicate with dangerous narcotics, they significantly increase the risk of incorrectly performing surgeries, prescribing the wrong dose of medication for a patient, and many other forms of doctor negligence.

In some cases, a single healthcare worker guilty of drug diversion can put thousands of patients at risk. A hospital technician was recently found to have injected himself with the medications intended for patients. He then refilled the syringes with saline in an attempt to cover his tracks. The reuse of these syringes infected at least 46 patients with hepatitis and 8,000 patients across eight states had to be tested for hepatitis.

Safety advocates call for reforms

Currently, there are limited control mechanisms in place to report, address, and reduce cases of medical malpractice stemming from substance abuse. Safety advocates have called the current system inadequate, given that estimates suggest one in 10 healthcare professionals will suffer from substance abuse at some point during their careers.

Many hospitals lack high-tech policing systems to track controlled substances. There are no universal requirements in any state that call for drug testing among healthcare workers and few hospitals take the initiative on their own. Furthermore, when employees are caught diverting drugs, they are often simply fired without further disciplinary action – meaning they can go on to repeat their actions at another facility.

New York medical malpractice attorneys are here to help

Patients rely on doctors and nurses to practice medicine without being impaired by dangerous, controlled substances. If you or a loved one has been the victim of doctor negligence that caused a misdiagnosis, medication error, surgical error, or other form of medical malpractice, you do have legal recourse available to you.

For more than 45 years, the NY medical malpractice lawyers of The Sanders Firm have provided aggressive legal representation to those wronged by the improper actions of healthcare professionals. We can file a medical malpractice lawsuit on your behalf to help you obtain compensation for your medical bills, ongoing care expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses. New Yorkers can call us today toll-free at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY.


  1. USA Today, Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/15/doctors-addicted-drugs-health-care-diversion/7588401/ 

  2. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Addiction in Health Care Professionals, http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/brochures/drug_hc.htm