I spoke with a nurse today who was fired from his job for diverting narcotics. His use of pain medication started with a legitimate back problem a few years ago. At that time, he used Percocet as prescribed. When he had recent back problems, he again began using Percocet and he remembered how he thought it also helped with his life problems. He described to me that when he took Percocet all was right with the world. He felt that he had more energy, more motivation and could function at a higher level. Stressful situations often seemed more manageable. Within a matter of months, the Percocet was no longer giving him the feelings that he initially had. He needed higher doses to achieve the same affect. This led to diversion of Percocet, which quickly led to diversion of morphine and dilaudid.
After speaking with him, I thought about the dozens of occasions where nurses have told me that their diversion of medication started with a legitimate pain problem. Many of these nurses have told me that when they were not able to use opiates, they began feeling ill, tired and unfocused. This would lead the nurses to continue to divert opiates in order to feel normal. If you are starting to rely on pain medication for reasons other than pain, or if your tolerance is increasing so that you require more pain medication for the same affect, you may be developing a dependency problem which could jeopardize your career. There are many treatment options other than notifying the Nursing Board. If you think you are developing a problem with pain medication, we can put you in touch with a treatment provider to assist you. We can also advise you as to your rights as a healthcare professional.