There are many reasons people abuse substances such as illegal drugs, alcohol or prescription medication. Many take these substances in a bid to self-medicate and make themselves feel better. Others have developed an addiction and are physically dependent on the substance they take. This means that even if they want to stop, they are unable to. Those with a prescription drug addiction, for example, will feel compelled to take their tablets even if doing so is causing negative consequences in their lives.
Addiction often causes a person to act in a manner that is at odds with his or her previous behaviour. Since addiction changes the way the brain functions, an individual with this illness may become manipulative in his or her attempts to get hold of the substance. He or she might even act out of desperation, doing something that would have appalled him or her before addiction took hold.
Sophie Heaven is one example of how addiction can cause a person to change. The nurse from Ilkeston developed an addiction to codeine and had been stealing the substance from the secure cupboard at the hospital where she worked. In fact, Heaven took the medication from the cabinet a staggering forty-six times before being caught. Her theft came to light when staff noticed that a particular drug was running low. They found that she had been signing the medication off to patients who had either changed wards or had already left the hospital.
Heaven was placed on a year’s probation from work at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and was sentenced to 140 hours of community service by a court. A ‘high-level breach of trust’ was given as the reason for the severity of the sentence.
The crime came to light when it was found that large amounts of dihydrocodeine were being taken from the cupboard. After a check, it was discovered that Heaven’s access to the cabinet was significantly higher than that of other nurses. Upon further checks, it was found that boxes of the medication were recorded as being issued to a patient who had already left the hospital.
There were other incidences of the medication being recorded as issued to patients who were in different wards, but these patients never actually received the medication. A check of Heaven’s car and home unearthed three boxes of the drug in the vehicle and more in her dressing gown pocket.
Heaven admitted to the theft and said that a prescription drug addiction was to blame. She had been suffering from post-natal depression but had initially been prescribed the medication for the treatment of pain following a broken foot. She confessed to taking over thirty-two tablets in a day.
The disgraced nurse had taken up to forty boxes of codeine, and although the value in monetary terms was small, the breach of trust was very high. She admitted feeling a ‘crushing need’ for the drug that caused her to steal.
Since her crimes came to light, Heaven has sought help for addiction and is now clean. It is unlikely that she will lose her job because, in all other aspects, she was considered to be a model employee. It is expected, however, that she may no longer be allowed to handle medication in the course of her work.
As with any addiction, a prescription drug addiction is one that can have a devastating impact on the lives of those affected as well as the lives of their family members. In the case of Sophie Heaven, her addiction to codeine may not have resulted in the loss of her job, but it has damaged her reputation as a nurse and has left her with a criminal record.
Others affected by prescription drug addiction may not be as lucky. In some instances, an addiction can be so severe that the individual in question may be unable to function properly. It could cause them to be unable to perform their job to the best of their ability, and it may result in financial hardship for themselves and their family.
Other consequences of addiction include relationship troubles. When one person is affected by addiction, the entire family suffers. Watching a loved one struggle with addiction is very upsetting; for children, it can be traumatising, particularly if they do not comprehend what is happening. Children of addicted parents are often neglected and are left with lasting emotional damage. Marriages can breakdown due to one spouse’s addiction, and this can also impact on children in a negative manner.
Lastly, but by no means least, there is a risk of overdose and death in those who develop a prescription drug addiction. Many people will mix prescription medication with other drugs or with alcohol, which can be fatal. It is essential, therefore, that those affected get the help they need as soon as possible as this type of illness will not go away by itself.
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