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
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.