Former AZ pharmacist describes his drug addiction - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Former AZ pharmacist describes his drug addiction

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Health professionals addicted to drugs and alcohol may make for interesting primetime television but it's a national problem with cases in the Valley.

CBS 5 News spoke with a man who was a Valley pharmacist for more than 20 years. He asked CBS 5 News not to reveal his identity because of the drastic turn his successful career took.

"I became addicted to pain pills. I had gone for some dental work and the doctor prescribed some pain medications," he said.

He said he was taking as many as 25 pills at once and more than 100 in a day. He was ultimately arrested and after seeking treatment, he realized he had to leave the profession.

"I was stealing them from the pharmacy I worked in. I was just taking them off the shelf and taking them for myself," he said.

According to the Society of Critical Care Medicine, 10 to 15 percent of all healthcare professionals will misuse drugs or alcohol.

In July of 2012, a traveling medical tech who had been fired from Arizona Heart Hospital was accused of stealing drugs and syringes, and infecting dozens of patients nationwide with Hepatitis C. A few months later, in October, a nurse at Mountain Vista Medical Center was arrested for stealing morphine and other narcotics.

"Accessibility is one of the reasons," said Jim Corrington, a counselor who works with physicians, anesthesiologists, and pharmacists.

He said while technology like surveillance cameras and automatically controlled cabinets help, more can be done.

"I would highly advocate for random urine drug screenings for all healthcare workers for no cause," Corrington said.

Corrington acknowledges that would require a whole new system and would cost a lot of money, but he says early intervention is the key to preventing the kind of addiction that he struggled with.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.