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The startling rise of illicit drug use among nurses: 2015-present

02 December 2023
Volume 2023 · Issue 3

Health professionals are entrusted with the wellbeing of their patients, and nurses play a pivotal role in providing compassionate and competent care. The progressive increase of illicit drug use among nurses from 2015 to the present has emerged as a troubling issue, revealing potential risks to patient safety and the overall integrity of the healthcare system. While this issue may extend to other medical professionals as well, this article focuses on drug abuse among nurses.

Drug abuse is defined as a patterned use of a substance in which the ‘user either intentionally or unintentionally causes harm to themselves or to others,’ whereas drug addiction is defined as ‘a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences’. It is estimated that more than 25 million people in the US are illicit drug users and, of those, 7 million misuse prescription drugs.1

The statistics for illicit drug use by nurses are difficult to predict accurately because of under-reporting. However, various research sources demonstrate a progressive and rising trend in the covert use of banned and unlawful drugs.

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