Stoned Pharmacists

J Am Pharm Assoc. 2001;41:392-400.
Onset of Illegal Use of Mind-Altering or Potentially Addictive Prescription Drugs Among Pharmacists
Dean A. Dabney

  Objectives: To determine the temporal and descriptive aspects of pharmacists' decision-making processes regarding illegal use of mind-altering or potentially addictive prescription drugs (PAPDs) and to measure the effects of social factors associated with being and becoming a pharmacist on pharmacists' decisions to use PAPDs illegally.
  Design: One-time, written, mailed survey.
  Setting: United States. Participants: Random sample of licensed practicing pharmacists who were members of the American Pharmaceutical Association in fall 1996.
  Interventions: Not applicable.
  Main Outcome Measures: Responses to items on the survey.
  Results: Nearly 40% of respondents indicated that they had used a form of PAPD without first obtaining a physician's authorizing prescription. A significant portion of the sample showed signs of repeated use-20% of the respondents reported 5 or more lifetime PAPD-use episodes, and 6% reported more than 10 such episodes. Almost 6% of the respondents identified themselves as being drug abusers at some point during their pharmacy careers. Moreover, a full 88% of these pharmacists began such illegal PAPD use after entering college, 51% used more than one type or class of PAPD, and 69% directly violated their professional code of ethics and state and/or federal laws by either stealing PAPDs from their place of employment (61%) or forging prescriptions (8%) to obtain them.
  Conclusion: A considerable percentage (40%) of the pharmacists surveyed had, on at least one occasion, used some form of PAPD without first obtaining a physician's authorizing prescription, and about one-fifth of respondents reported repeated use. The onset of such illegal PAPD use by pharmacists almost always occurred after the individuals had entered college. [Does this mean that college education is a "gateway" to drug use, and should therefore be made illegal? ljf] Interpersonal factors, such as positive reinforcement of self-medication practices from peers and increased levels of one's own approval for self-medication, appear to increase the likelihood that a pharmacist will engage in such illegal PAPD use.


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