The diversion of prescription drugs by health care workers in Cincinnati, Ohio

James A. Inciardi, Hilary L. Surratt, Steven P. Kurtz, John J. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Data are reported from drug diversion cases involving health care workers who were investigated by the Cincinnati Police Division Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad over an 11-year period. This type of information is rarely available because few U.S. police jurisdictions dedicate resources to prescription drug diversion surveillance. Data from 1992 through 2002 show that opioids were the drugs most commonly diverted by health care workers, followed by benzodiazepines. Nurses, nursing assistants, and medical assistants were involved in almost three quarters of all cases. Hospitals were the most common sources of complaint to police, followed by pharmacies. Health care professional associations are advised to promote greater awareness of drug misuse and dependence concerns among their memberships, and health care facilities that stock pharmaceuticals liable for misuse and diversion are advised to increase the security of their supplies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-264
Number of pages10
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Cincinnati, Ohio, historically known as a major “pill town” (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2004), has had an enduring problem with prescription drug abuse. As a result, through a request made by the Ohio Governor’s Office, in 1990 the Cincinnati Police Division received a 4-year Byrne Memorial Grant to establish a pharmaceutical diversion squad. The Edward Byrne Memorial Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program was authorized by the U.S. Department of Justice to award grants to states and units of local government to improve the overall functioning of the criminal justice system and to enforce state and local drug control laws. The problems of prescription drug misuse and diversion in Cincinnati fell within the target areas of the Byrne program. At the conclusion of the Byrne funding, support for the diversion squad was provided by the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati.

Funding Information:
This research was supported, in part, by a grant from Purdue Pharma, L.P., to the University of Delaware. Dr. Inciardi and Mr. Burke are members of a Purdue Pharma External Advisory Board. The authors thank the Cincinnati Police Division for making available the diversion data presented in this report.


  • Drug misuse
  • Health care workers
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycontin®
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Prescription drug diversion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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