Addicted Nurses.. Who to blame !


I have often read about nurses that take narcotics. They take advantage of their position. When doctors order a narcotic for a patient , they exchange it with normal saline or whatsoever . Hence , patient don't get the narcotic and the nurses keeps it for them.

They are Addicted ! They take narcotics...

This has been common , not only in nurses but doctors too .

But my issue here is where is the Code of Ethics that we follow . We have resposibility and we should monitor out own reaction .. .... ETHICS is required in any job and in any behaviour we do.

What line in Code of Ethics has been violated in here?

This has to be taken seriously and solved.

Who we have to blame... ?

The nurse who does it , the headnurse for her neglection, the system of the hospital.. or the doctor who don't recheck .. or whom ???

What is to be done.. ?

Can i in certain situation call it malpractice or a crime or even negligent ?



iNurseUK, RN

348 Posts

Specializes in Plastics. General Surgery. ITU. Oncology. Has 20 years experience.

This is a relatively very rare scenario in nursing.

I cannot think that "blaming" anyone is terribly useful nor constructive. People may engage in addictive behaviors for all sorts of reasons. Bypassing systemic checking procedures is not rocket science. But it is a tiny minority who will ever do this.

Addiction is a complex phenomenon. "Ethics" will certainly not be a primary consideration of a true addict. A dependent person is not thinking in logical or ethical terms, they are responding to an immediate, urgent and inescapable need.

I'm not sure quite what your question was.

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

153 Articles; 21,229 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

Most folks subscribe the idea that addiction is a disease.

Don't think there is anyone that wants to be an addict.

As to criminal? I'll leave to the experts.

And...if you have a solution, let everyone in on it - putting the blame on someone (just one someone) might prove kinda tough.


31 Posts

Specializes in Level 1, Level 2, Level 4 trauma and med.

I also can't figure out the question. Addiction is a mental illness. What is unethical about it?? Stealing narcs is a crimminal offense, a feloney. Swiping meds for saline is unethical yes, deplorable yes, illegal yes. If people ignore the signs around them, narc counts that are off, strange behaviors, then you are part of the problem. Your liscense could be in jeopardy for not notifying a supervisor. Hopefully it isn't your supervisor who is stealing the narcs. Is it unethical not to notify a supervisor if you suspect someone is stealing narcs,'s more objective than that. It's a policy violation and you could be punished. As inurse points out, addiction in our workplace is complex. You can debate the subjective nature of it once an intervention is done, before that keep it objective and follow the policy.

BTW, addiction in nursing occurs at the same rate in our overall population...about 5%.


357 Posts

Addicts are *always* responsible for their behavior - no matter their stage of disease or recovery.

canoehead, BSN, RN

6,841 Posts

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

If you know that people get caught up in the web of addiction when they take narcotic medications to feel good (not for pain) then you should actively avoid that behavior. I haven't tried any of the really good drugs because I'm weak minded and selfish- I'd be addicted in an instant.

Of course you get people who become addicted before they have the knowledge base to see consequences. They've lived their lives for years from one high to the next. Those are the people I really admire when they get clean. They had to be beyond brave to give up the only pleasure in their lives and trust there was something more waiting. Really- my hat's off to them.

allnurses Guide

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

2 Articles; 6,840 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development. Has 12 years experience.

I don't mean to be unkind or sound ugly at all, but addiction is a disease. I don't ask who to blame when someone is diagnosed with diabetes or cancer. There doesn't have to be a "blame". It is an illness and as such, should be evaluated and treated on that level, not on whose fault it is. Part of effective treatment is often through making addicts accountable for their actions, as getting well seems very much to be a mental thing as much as physical thing. To me that still equates to pursuing wellness more than placing blame.


114 Posts

Specializes in cardiac (CCU/Heart Transplant, cath lab). Has 6 years experience.

Who we have to blame... ?

The nurse who does it , the headnurse for her neglection, the system of the hospital.. or the doctor who don't recheck .. or whom ???

The person to blame is......drumroll...... the person with the drug addiction. Generally speaking, what has happened to accountability and responsibility for one's actions in this country? :eek:

There are certainly contributing factors. However, people have free will and make their OWN choices.


1 Article; 1,905 Posts

It pretty common knowledge that addiction is bad. I would agree anecdotally that most people do not intend to be addicts; however, poor choices and behaviour often leads to dependancy and addiction. As with many things in life, the fist step toward healing is acknowledging and accepting responsibility. I am not pulling the blame care per se and I absolutely understand there are many people who are functional addicts and functional with dependancy issues ( chronic pain, cancers,and other chronic conditions ). Therefore, the addiction concept is a rather grey area when considering all of the issues.

As far as stealing and diverting. These actions may be illegal and may result in criminal charges. That is not really an area that I can speak about with any authority. However, I do believe in treatment and second chances.

Has 10 years experience.

The person to blame is the person who is stealing drugs and withholding them from those they were intended. While addiction is a disease the addicted individual is responsible for their actions, just as the HIV person who knowingly has unprotected sex is, or the person with a GI issue is who doesn't wash their hands before lining up at the salad bar.

Of course it is in the best interest of all concerned that we continue to develop safe guards to prevent this from happening.

Obviously addition knows no borders, and does not discriminate. Having said that, I notice you are in Kuwait. Just curious where you have "often read" about this happening.

Specializes in Rehab, Infection, LTC. Has 16 years experience.

what is the question?


1,459 Posts

Nobody is to be blamed except the person involved. People need to learn to own their faults.

Perhaps others may have in some unconscious( or perhaps) conscious way abetted the person involved. But really, no one else should have to take the blame for it.