Healthcare workers who divert drugs for their own use can harm patients in several ways:
- Delivering care in an impaired state,
- Failing to administer adequate pain relief to patients in need, and
- Exposing patients to bloodborne pathogens, including hepatitis C or unsafe substances as a result of tampering and substitution.
Tampering involves removing medication from a syringe or
vial and replacing it with saline, water, or other substances. Tampering
is the most serious type of drug diversion because it is most likely to
result in patient harm.
Healthcare workers who divert drugs intended for patients
for their own use are struggling with an addiction that has escalated
out of control. Tampering is a sign of true desperation. In order to
obtain the drugs they need without being detected, the tampering and
substitution must occur quickly. As a result, sterile technique is
seldom used, the needle used to inject drugs is rarely replaced, and if
the healthcare worker happens to be infected with a bloodborne pathogen
(for example, undiagnosed hepatitis C) that means that the exposed
patients are at very high risk of developing infection.