Many Nurse Anesthetists are Struggling with Abuse and Addiction

Many nurse anesthetists are struggling with abuse and addiction

It is a fact that certain professions attract drug abuse or addictions; one of these professions is nurse anesthetists. These individuals typically work in operating rooms, maternity wards, emergency rooms, dental clinics, etc. They are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients who are undergoing surgery or are experiencing pain.

An increasing number of nurse anesthetists throughout countries like the US and UK are dying from overdoses or being entered into treatment centers for an addiction. Medical communities are becoming increasingly worried about this situation and are calling for urgent measures to stop this growing problem.

Three Different Hypotheses

So why are nurse anesthetists more prone to drug abuse and addiction? Below are three different hypotheses that many professionals believe are the reasons why nurse anesthetists are so prone to drug abuse and addiction.

Nurse Anesthetists Have Access to Addictive Substances

Anesthesiology is the only medical profession in which the nurses and physicians draw up, label, and account for the drugs; thus they have great opportunities to take and abuse those substances. There are various policies that nurse anesthetists must follow which make taking the drugs more difficult. One policy includes anesthetists to “waste” any drugs that they do not use on a patient in front of a witness or that they return the drugs to the pharmacy or medicine dispensary. In that case, the drugs will be verified through random testing. While this can work, there are ways around this, and individuals who abuse or have an addiction know how to and are outsmarting these policies.

Nurse Anesthetists are Exposed to ‘Second-Hand’ Anesthesia

A research team investigating how nurse anesthetists begin abusing drugs found traces of Fentanyl and Propofol throughout operating rooms. Although these anesthetics were given through an IV, the patients had exhaled these drugs while on the operating table. The highest concentrations were found around the patient’s heads, which is where nurse anesthetists sit during the surgery process. The study hypothesized that a number of the nurse anesthetists may have began abusing drugs or developed addictions because they were exposed to powerful second-hand drugs in operating rooms. Over time, chemicals in their brain changed and cause the individuals to have cravings for the drugs; leading to self administered use.

Some Personality Types May be at Higher Risk for Abuse and Addiction

There are a very small percentage of people in the medical field who are qualified to become nurse anesthetists. These people must be top medical students and many of them are considered to be ‘over achievers’. Oftentimes, they exhibit compulsive behaviors and are considered to be ‘uptight’. Once they are given access to the drugs, some may feel like they have an opportunity to zone out and relax for a bit; they are in turn, setting themselves up for possible abuse and addiction. Researchers have also found that many nurse anesthetists are what one would consider to be a ‘control freak’, especially when it comes to drugs and the human body. This is because in a sense what a nurse anesthetist is doing is controlling another person’s physiology.

A Quote from An anesthesiologist out of Mount Sinai Hospital

“We give what would be equivalent to a lethal injection on a daily basis if we didn’t intervene. A lot of what we do is controlling the body’s reaction to drugs. And I think that creates a false sense that, if we can control what’s going on with somebody else, we should be able to control this in ourselves.” E.Bryson

Many other Hypotheses

There are obviously many other hypotheses that one could make when trying to figure out why nurse anesthetists are so prone to drug abuse and addiction. While more research is being conducted to try to understand these reasons, we can assume that the three hypotheses above are probably all true in some way or another, and most likely a nurse anesthetist may be abusing as a result of a combination of these hypotheses.