Rising Rate of Propofol Abuse By Health Care Professionals

Propofol is a drug that may not be widely known by the general population. It is an anesthetic used to induce sedation in preparation for surgery. The drug is powerful enough to knock the user unconscious and keep them that way during invasive open surgeries. At first glance it might be perceived that a drug such as this wouldn’t be widely abused by any large population of people. However, a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine has found that the drug is being abused more often than most would assume.

The main demographic of individuals who are abusing propofol is shockingly those working in the medical industry. Where many would assume that doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel are above addiction, aware of the risks and knowledgeable enough to avoid habit-forming behaviors with mind altering substances, it has been found to be completely untrue. From 1990 to 2010 increasing numbers of healthcare professionals were identified as abusing propofol.

The appeal of propofol lies in its strength compared to other substances. It has a rapid onset, speedy recovering time and the fewest negative side effects compared to other anesthetics. It was found that all of the healthcare professionals suffering from addiction to propofol had open access to the drug. It was also found that those addicted the substance were more likely to be women, had a likelihood of established depression, or childhood trauma in the form of sexual or physical abuse. Information gathered from the patients treated for propofol addiction, usage began just to aid them in falling asleep. Symptoms of addiction however, set in quickly. As to be expected from any powerful drug, it does not take many uses before dependence sets in. Another drug that can spur the onset of addiction in just one or two uses is heroin.

Propofol abuse carries a high risk of overdose, possibly more-so than most other drugs. While the typical abuser is a healthcare professional with training in dosage and usage of the substance, there is a high risk for accidental overdose in which an individual may die. The strength of propofol is so profound that a number of patients attended treatment for addiction after just one binge usage. Another group of individuals entered treatment after they were found unconscious after abusing the substance. The powerful anesthetic is typically administered by an anesthesiologist who has a considerable amount of training and studying behind them in order to correctly use the substance. There is a fine line between desired effects when used recreationally and unconsciousness.