The Consequences of Drug Diversion in Healthcare: A Snapshot of the Numbers

Since 2000, over 700,000 people have lost their lives due to drug overdose. Even worse are the troubling statistics of those they leave behind, with over two-thirds of Americans surveyed stating that their lives have been affected by addiction in one way or another.

Based on these harrowing numbers, it’s clear that the consequences of drug diversion in healthcare are just scratching the surface of a much greater drug abuse problem in the United States.

That being said, drug diversion in healthcare is a crucial detail in the broad scope we are trying to grasp here.

It’s so large that we need to take a systematic approach and break it down into more manageable pieces if we are to truly combat drug abuse in the United States.

biodegradable drug disposal solution

NarcX and Drug Diversion in Healthcare

Drug diversion in particular significantly impacts both the welfare of patients and the integrity of our healthcare systems.

That’s why NarcX, a biodegradable drug disposal solution, has made it its mission to reform outdated drug disposal methods in healthcare.

In this article, we will take a look at the consequences of drug diversion in healthcare and see how NarcX’s innovative drug disposal solution can be the key to reforming the drug disposal methods of healthcare at large.

dangers of improper medical waste management

Understanding the Consequences of Improper Waste Management

Before we can grasp the problem of drug diversion in healthcare, we need to take a look at the overall problem of improper waste management.

On a broad scale, the consequences of improper waste management are a global problem, both environmentally and from a public health standpoint.

Improper Waste Management for Healthcare

In the healthcare sector, the consequences of improper waste management are even more astounding.

Every year, countless medications intended for patient care end up being diverted for non-medical use.

This not only leads to a significant waste of healthcare resources but also exacerbates multiple public health crises such as the worsening opioid epidemic and pollution for impoverished neighborhoods.

An Environmental Hazard

The environmental impact of this improper waste management is also alarming.

Improperly disposed medications contaminate our waterways and soil, posing risks to both human health and the environment.

These medications have been found to affect our food supply and other parts of the ecosystem that society relies upon to function properly. 

Key Takeaways from this Section

  • Lack of Consumer Awareness: In the United States, a significant lack of awareness about proper drug disposal methods among consumers leads to environmental harm.
  • Environmental Consequences: Common disposal practices like flushing medications or throwing them in trash contribute to pharmaceuticals entering water systems, posing risks to human health and marine ecosystems.
  • Sources of Contamination: Primary sources of pharmaceutical contamination include households, hospitals, and nursing homes. Current U.S. government recommendations for drug disposal are not sustainable, exacerbating risks for water contamination.
drug disposal technology

The Root of the Problem: Drug Diversion in Healthcare

Drug diversion in healthcare settings is often attributed to a lack of secure drug disposal methods.

Many of the current practices involve stock-piling drugs in an on-site location while the healthcare facility waits for a DEA-approved disposal facility to come take the unused medication and incinerate them off-site.

Healthcare workers, who have easy access to these medications, may divert them for personal use or illegal distribution.

The questions concerning why diversion happens in the first place speaks to a much deeper, systemic issue in healthcare, in general.

Opportunity Driven Crimes

With many of the workers underpaid and overworked, their motives typically range from:

  • Self-medication for pain or stress
  • Financial gain 
  • Or substance abuse disorders among the staff.

Regardless of the circumstance, most of the time these are opportunistic people who are not malicious, but simply take advantage of a broken and outdated system.

Really want to do a deep dive into drug diversion? Check out this webinar that educates healthcare professionals on the matter.

(Video Credit: Constellation Is Now Curi)

Key Takeaways from this Section

  • Lack of Secure Disposal: Drug diversion in healthcare is largely due to inadequate secure drug disposal methods.
  • Access Leads to Diversion: Easy access to medications by healthcare workers often results in diversion for personal use or illegal distribution.
  • Diverse Motivations: Factors driving diversion include self-medication, financial gain, and substance use disorders among healthcare staff.

Be Part of the Solution.

preventing drug diversion in hospitals with narcx

The Real Consequences of Drug Diversion in Healthcare

The real consequences of drug diversion in healthcare do not end at the hospital or pharmacy.

Instead, drug diversion becomes a multifaceted problem that bleeds into the fabric of a drug abuse epidemic that’s sweeping the nation.

These multifaceted issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased Availability of Prescription Drugs: Diverted medications, especially opioids, become more accessible for non-medical use.
  • Fueling Addiction and Overdose Rates: Diversion contributes to higher rates of addiction and overdoses in communities.
  • Undermining Patient Care: Diversion in healthcare settings can lead to shortages or mismanagement of medications for patients in need.

Ultimately, all of this mismanagement undermines trust in healthcare institutions and professionals, which is crucial for effective paitent care.

If people do not trust the experts anymore, it puts them at risk for self-medication and other forms of dangerous drug habits that lead to addiction and abuse.

Here are some disturbing facts about the prescription drug abuse problem in the United States.

(Video Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Key Takeaways from this Section

  • Patient Safety at Risk: Drug diversion compromises patient safety by making necessary medications unavailable for their intended use.
  • Risk of Contamination: Diversion increases the likelihood of patients receiving incorrect or contaminated medications.
  • Erodes Trust: Drug diversion undermines trust in healthcare institutions and professionals, essential for effective care.
    biodegradable drug disposal solution

    NarcX’s Role in Reforming Drug Disposal Practices

    Amidst these challenges, NarcX’s groundbreaking biodegradable medication disposal solution emerges as a beacon of hope.

    By offering an efficient and environmentally responsible way to dispose of unused medications, NarcX addresses the core issues of drug diversion and improper medical waste management.

    A New Approach to Drug Disposal

    NarcX is revolutionizing the way hospitals handle unused medications.

    Traditional methods of storing unused drugs until they can be incinerated by DEA-certified facilities have proven inadequate in preventing drug diversion.

    NarcX’s drug disposal technology offers an immediate and secure solution.

    When hospitals and other healthcare facilities are able to destroy unused medications immediately and on-site, it reduces the window of opportunity for healthcare workers to divert drugs.

    Removing the Opportunity

    Rather than stockpile unused medications in a ware house somewhere, NarcX removes the opportunity for a healthcare worker or other agent to divert the drugs.

    In this way, NarcX directly impacts the chain of drug diversion in healthcare facilities by immediately targeting the source – from the very beginning of the drug diversion cycle.

    Here’s a quick clip to give you an overview of NarcX and their drug disposal solution.

    Key Takeaways from this Section

    • Innovative Solution: NarcX introduces a groundbreaking biodegradable medication disposal system to efficiently address drug diversion and improper medical waste management.
    • NarcX Removes Opportunity: With most of these drug diversion crimes a matter of opportunity, on-site destruction with NarcX removes it from the equation.
    illicit fentanyl and the opioid epidemic in America

    NarcX Addresses the Opioid Epidemic Through Secure Medication Disposal

    Perhaps one of the most important aspects to NarcX and their on-site drug disposal solution is how it addresses the opioid epidemic, head-on.

    According to one study that monitored 300 jurisdictions throughout 50 states, a total of 64,655 cases of prescription drug diversion were reported. Of those cases, 38.2% mentioned hydrocodone and 24.3% mentioned oxycodone – two very potent opioids.

    NarcX Directly Reduces the Supply

    Clearly, opioids are the some of the most sought-after prescription drugs with the highest potential for abuse. Drug diversion is an easy way to get these into the hands of dealers and further fuel the opioid epidemic.

    By ensuring that unused opioids are destroyed and not available for diversion, NarcX plays a critical role in curbing the supply of these drugs on the streets.

    This approach is essential in reducing the availability of opioids for non-medical use, a key factor in the ongoing opioid crisis.

    Recent Study on Illicit Fentanyl

    Recently, NarcX was the first drug disposal solution to meet DEA standards for destroying illicit fentanyl.

    This study was independently conducted and validated by a third-party criminal laboratory.

    The Center for Forensic Science Research & Education (CFSRE) analytically tested the enviornmentally safe solution to prove that NarcX+ met the DEA standards of non-retrievable and non-divertable.

    As the first of it’s kind, NarcX gives government and healthcare agencies the power the curb opioid abuse and diversion in the United States.


    Want to know more about drug diversion from a wider lense? Here’s a video from NarcX that explains reverse distributors and their role in the opioid epidemic.

    Key Takeaways from this Section

    • Direct Impact on Opioid Epidemic: NarcX’s disposal solution targets the opioid crisis by destroying unused opioids, thus reducing their diversion and misuse.
    • Reducing Opioid Availability: By eliminating excess opioids, NarcX limits their availability for non-medical use, crucial in combating the opioid epidemic.
    • DEA-Compliant Fentanyl Destruction: NarcX has met DEA standards for destroying illicit fentanyl, enhancing its role in curbing opioid abuse and diversion.
    ecological drug disposal technology with NarcX

    Beyond Hospitals: NarcX’s Wider Impact on Community Health

    While NarcX’s drug disposal technology has proven invaluable in healthcare settings, its benefits extend far beyond hospital walls.

    NarcX offers a solution that can be adopted by communities, helping to prevent drug diversion and misuse at a local level.

    By making this technology accessible in public spaces such as pharmacies, community centers, and police stations, NarcX facilitates safe medication disposal for the broader public.

    Educating the Public on Safe Medication Disposal

    An essential component of combating drug diversion and its consequences is education.

    NarcX is committed to raising awareness about the dangers of improper medical waste management and the importance of secure medication disposal.

    Through community outreach and informational campaigns, NarcX seeks to inform the public about how to properly dispose of unused medications, thereby reducing the risk of diversion and environmental contamination.

    Key Takeaways from this Section

    • Wider Community Impact: NarcX’s benefits extend to communities, preventing local drug diversion and misuse.
    • Accessible Public Solutions: NarcX provides safe medication disposal options in public spaces like pharmacies and community centers.
    • Focus on Education: NarcX emphasizes educating the public on the dangers of improper medical waste management.
    community opioid epidemic awareness

    Conclusion: A Holistic Approach to Drug Diversion and Waste Management

    In conclusion, NarcX’s innovative drug disposal technology represents a vital step forward in addressing the multifaceted issue of drug diversion in healthcare and the broader opioid epidemic.

    NarcX directly targets the issue of drug diversion in healthcare by going to the source – the very beginning of an outdated drug disposal practice that is in desperate need of reform.

    From healthcare facilities to the welfare and well-being of our communities, NarcX is the solution to America’s drug abuse problem.

    We are the Solution.

    References:

    “Drug Diversion by Health Care Personnel: Understanding the Risk.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 May 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPe6vXa5zRw.

    “Drug Overdose Death Rates.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 25 Sept. 2023, nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates#:~:text=More%20than%20106%2C000%20persons%20in,drugs%20from%201999%20to%202021.

    Duong, Diana, and Lauren Vogel. “Overworked Health Workers Are ‘Past the Point of Exhaustion.’” CMAJ, CMAJ, 27 Feb. 2023, www.cmaj.ca/content/195/8/E309.

    Healthday. “Two-Thirds of Americans Say Their Lives Have Been Affected By …” U.S. News, www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2023-08-15/two-thirds-of-americans-say-their-lives-have-been-affected-by-addiction-poll. Accessed 27 Jan. 2024.

    Inciardi, James A, et al. “The Diversion of Prescription Opioid Analgesics.” Law Enforcement Executive Forum, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4176900/#:~:text=During%20the%2020%2Dquarter%20survey,in%2024.3%25%20of%20the%20cases.

    Isaacs, Richard. “5 Steps to Restore Trust in U.S. Health Care.” Harvard Business Review, 8 Sept. 2022, hbr.org/2022/09/5-steps-to-restore-trust-in-u-s-health-care#:~:text=People%20who%20mistrust%20the%20health,with%20medical%20advice%20and%20prescriptions.

    Kamal, Khalid M, et al. “GMS Health Innovation and Technologies: Disposal Practices for Unused and Expired Medications: Pilot Data from Three Cities in Three Countries.” GMS, 2022, www.egms.de/static/en/journals/hta/2022-16/hta000133.shtml.

    Karim-Nejad, Ladan, and Kayla Pangilinan. “How Should Responsibility for Proper Medication Disposal Be Shared?” Journal of Ethics | American Medical Association, American Medical Association, 1 Oct. 2022, journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/how-should-responsibility-proper-medication-disposal-be-shared/2022-10.

    “Opioid Diversion in Hospitals – a Safety Concern.” ISMP Canada, 2020, ismpcanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/ISMPCSB2020-i8-Opioid-Diversion.pdf.

    Ozbay, Gulnihal, et al. “Design and Operation of Effective Landfills with Minimal Effects on the Environment and Human Health.” Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Hindawi, 7 Sept. 2021, doi.org/10.1155/2021/6921607.

    “Prescription Drug Abuse: A Public Health Epidemic.” YouTube, YouTube, 7 Oct. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZamuuz-D7c.

    Salman Zafar. “Environmental Risks of Improper Drug Disposal.” EcoMENA, 3 Nov. 2023, www.ecomena.org/environmental-risks-of-improper-drug-disposal/.

    “Substance Abuse and Addiction Statistics [2023].” NCDAS, 1 Jan. 2023, drugabusestatistics.org/.

    Weiland, Noah. “Why Health Care Workers Are Burning Out.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Oct. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/10/24/health/doctors-nurses-burnout.html.

    Jake Tripp

    Jake Tripp

    Content Strategist/Writer

    I’m a content strategist and copywriter who specializes in social media and blog content architecture. I help brands nationwide to communicate their values and build loyal audiences.

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