Why EMS managers must plan for narcotic thefts

EMS1.com –

EMS providers are vulnerable to addiction by the nature of their jobs, and an unfortunate story highlights the need to plan ahead for this situation

A few years ago one of our paramedics, out of fear of being discovered, called a manager to admit to stealing narcotics.

A few days earlier a different crew had alerted their supervisor that the narcotic vials they were assigned for their shift “looked funny” – they were right. The department launched an investigation and managers began double-checking our controlled substance inventory and asking questions about security.

Word was out among the crews that something was amiss; it turns out, something had been amiss for weeks.

Months earlier, following an orthopedic injury, a paramedic (we’ll call him Jesse) had become addicted to prescription opioids. After returning to work, and no longer able to obtain drugs by prescription, he turned to rummaging around sharps containers and sifting out the small remnants of drug from near-empty vials of Morphine and Dilaudid.

I consider this akin to digging cigarette butts out of an ashtray. This person was desperate.

Soon that wasn’t enough, so Jesse started stealing drugs sanctioned for the ambulance, carefully removing them from vials and replacing them with water. Later, when confessing the entire scheme, he acknowledged that it had become impossible, even for him, to distinguish between vials that had been tampered with and those that had not.

The aftermath led to the involvement of multiple agencies including the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the Minnesota State Department of Health, the Board of Pharmacy, the EMS Regulatory Agency and local law enforcement. Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there.

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National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators Federal Tax ID: 52-1660752 / DUNS Number: 073539913

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