Top 10 prescription drugs medical professionals use or abuse

Ever wonder what pills your doctor or nurse is popping? Here, a recovered nurse describes the medications most likely to be abused by health care workers. Learn more about the Top 10 drugs most likely to be used and abused by doctors, nurses, and medical specialists here.

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Drug vs. alcohol problems for health care workers?

Studies have shown (see reference sources below) that health care professionals struggle with drugs more than alcohol. In fact, there is a higher incidence of addiction to prescription medications than to illegal or illicit drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

Addiction to prescription medications

Anyone who works in the medical field is surrounded by medications daily. Most health care workers have a vast knowledge of medications. They understand how they work, why they work and what the effects of the meds are. Because of that knowledge, many doctors and nurses fall victim to addiction. They feel they understand the medications, so they can’t fall victim to it. They think they can handle it.

Top 10 prescription medication drugs abused by medical providers

There are three categories of medications that health care providers tend to abuse: sedatives, opiates and benzodiazepines. Following is a detailed description og medications most likely to be abused by medical staff. But first, we provide an alphabetic list of the brand names for particular drugs used most by medical workers.

1. Ativan
2. Demerol
3. Dilaudid
4. Diprovan (Propofol)
5. Fentanyl
6. Morphine
7. OxyContin
8. Percocet
9. Vicodin
10. Xanax

Sedative abuse by health care workers

The main sedative that is abused is Propofol, or Diprovan. It is used by anesthesia as well as on ventilator patients. It comes in IV form and is known for its hypnotic effects. Anesthesiologists tend to abuse this med the most.

Benzodiazepine abuse by medical staff

Benzodiazepines are used to help alleviate anxiety and for panic disorders. Xanax is on medication that is frequently abused. It is mainly used for anxiety. Another benzo that is highly abused is Ativan. It is used for anxiety, insomnia and as an adjunct with anesthesia.

Opiate abuse by healthcare professionals

Opiates are the most frequently used medications and are the most highly addictive of the three categories. They come in many forms.

Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin are oral narcotics that are abused the most. They are all used to alleviate pain. Many times, they are abused because of the euphoric effect they produce. One serious problem, besides its potential for addiction is that Vicodin and Percocet also have Tylenol in them. High doses of Tylenol can damage the liver, so when someone abuses pain medications with Tylenol in them, there is lasting effects on the liver.

Dilaudid, Morphine and Demerol are pain medications that come in both pill form as well as IV form. Many health care workers abuse the IV form of these medications. They are used often in the hospital setting.

Fentanyl is an opiate used for both pain and as an adjunct to anesthesia. Fentanyl is the most potent of all the opiates mentioned here. It comes in IV form as well as in patches. An example is a Duragesic patch. This medication is another one that is highly abused by anesthesiologists. Because of the high potency of Fentanyl, it has the highest potential of overdose.

Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists need special support for addiction

Health care workers who suffer from addiction have to work very hard at their recovery if they want to work in a hospital setting because they are around these highly addictive medications every time they go to work. They must have a good support system and a strong recovery foundation to return to the work they love.

Do you think that you have a problem with prescription medications?

Reference Sources: Encyclopedia of Nursing Research (2006), Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, Meredith Wallace; pages 582-585
About the author
Nurse N Recovery has been an RN for 16 years. Most of those years were spent in Critical Care. 4 years ago, she became addicted to narcotics. She is now in drug addiction recovery and has developed a website to help others suffering from addiction.


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  1. Fentanyl = brutal. I’ve heard of so many high-tolerant opiate users just ‘trying’ fentanyl – then crash and burn. Most younger people obviously have this mentality that they can handle whatever so-called ‘recreational drug’ they can get their hands on… they don’t research, they don’t think, they don’t start small – they take the patch, cut in two, smoke it, then either become unconscious, suffer kidney/liver failure, or sadly overdose and die. As Oxy becomes more and more unavailable or difficult to rec-use, ‘F’ is quickly becoming the replacement choice, and in turn will be the downfall of many that don’t understand it’s overpowering strength, addiction and painful withdrawal. As with Oxy, it’s usage is for late-stage cancer pain, or as in my mother’s illness – spinal cord disintegration.

  2. Eddie,
    Have you ever thought about going to the medical board or CDC? I am a Medical Assistant in a healthcare setting as well. I am greatly sorry for your loss. It seems to me that the Dr. she received this from is negligent as well. She should have been monitored more closely with this type of drug. I certainly would not let this rest. Your word needs to be heard. Maybe you should consider publicly speaking in this type of situation. If nothing else it may save another life.
    Good Luck with your endeavors!!

  3. The hardest part of this is the reality. There are no Grief groups that understand this. There realy isnt any group I can talk to that understands this, in my circumstances. How can I talk to anyone about this , it just seems so bizarre to anyone who hears it. Medical professionals are the only one but they dont want to hear from me. I am no one to them and she just slipped through a faulty system. What do I do, accept it and just move on with life? Let her die in vein?

  4. Making this article public helps. People need to realize that addiction doesnt discriminate. Doctors and nurses are not immune to this disease. I wish I knew than what I know now.

  5. Eddie. Thanks for sharing and we are very sorry for your loss. We hope that your experience may help someone else prevent the same. Please let us know how we can help you.

  6. My wife was a nurse. She started on Ativan and that didnt work the best so she took Fentanyl, now she is dead. This is a big problem that needs to addressed. God rest her soul.

  7. I didn’t even think about anesthesiologists as potential addicts before I read this. But it makes total sense to me. I suppose I’ve never been attracted to downers, so the drugs that they use were never in my repertoire during active addiction. I wonder further if other demographics might also use specialized drugs (surgeons, pharmacists, ER staff)?

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?