Tuesday, 13 May 2008

It’s there if you want it…


It's well known that a minority of health professionals abuse drugs and alcohol. I'm happy to say that abuse of hard, medical narcotic drugs happens very rarely (as far as I know). One of the things that really surprised me when I started working in the operating theatres as an anaesthetist was the easy access to, and ready availability of narcotics to me.

In anaesthesia, we give just about all the street drugs (heroin, cocaine, barbituates, tranquilisers, ketamine) plus many others (morphine, fentanyl, midazolam etc… etc…) in their pure medical form to our patients to help them through surgery.

Strict restrictions exist over these “controlled drugs” but the restrictions only go as far as to the point when the drug leaves the drug cupboard. What happens to it after that is purely in the hands of the nurse or doctor who signed it out.

In my job, I’ve wandered round with syringes full of heroin, ketamine etc… in my hands and I’m telling you, it would be the simplest thing in the world to slip the odd syringe into my bag to “enjoy” later.

I suppose that if you are that way inclined, then you’d find a way of getting your hit, no matter what, but I think this shows the amount of trust and responsibility our employers, our patients and the public as a whole put on us health professionals to behave ourselves.

The occasional bad apple will abuse this trust but the majority of us would never dream of abusing medical substances. This is partly because it goes against everything we’re training for and also because, as doctors, we’ve seen too often where that road ends.

3 comments:

Oliver Smith said...

You don’t really give it much thought. The stress of working in the NHS, particulalry in junior posts, coupled with the easy access to substances that can be abused could prove very tempting for a doctor. However, it is rare that we hear about such stories in the news. In situations like that there will always be those who get the thoughts and the ideas and within that group there will be a tiny proportion who give in...

The Welsh Pharmacist said...

Really boring question...

The fun drugs get signed out from pharmacy, and the balance checked. Is there a controlled drug book for theatres that they get signed in/out of, and a balance kept?

Also, during surgery, is a record kept of how much of each controlled drug is used?

(And yes, I realise that these are possibly the most boring questions you could ask an anaesthetist).

Michael Anderson said...

Welsh Pharmacist.

in each anaesthetic room there's a book that the hard stuff gets signed into and a record is kept. Each time I use a drug, I have to sign it out of the book with the theatre assisstant and a tally of how much i have used is kept.

This is where the checks end though. There's no record of what I do with the drugs once I've signed it out of the book.

Patient's often don't need say, a full 10mg ampule of morphine so I throw the remainder away, but there's nothing to stop me "saving it for later" provided nobody else saw...