On the meaning of "drug seeking"

Margo McCaffery, Megan A. Grimm, Chris Pasero, Betty Ferrell, Gwen C. Uman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term "drug seeking" is frequently used but poorly defined. By soliciting nurses' comments and suggestions, a survey was developed to identify behaviors that may cause nurses to refer to a patient as drug seeking, to identify what nurses think the term "drug seeking" means, to explore how nurses regard the use of the term "drug seeking" in health care, and to identify differences between general nurses, emergency nurses, and pain management nurses with regard to these items. Behaviors that would cause the majority of all three nurse groups to refer to a patient as drug seeking were as follows: going to different emergency departments to get opioids, telling inconsistent stories about pain or medical history, or asking for a refill because the prescription was lost or stolen. When the term "drug seeking" is used, all three groups of nurses agreed that it was very likely to mean the patient was addicted to opioids, the patient was abusing pain medicine, or the patient was manipulative. One-half or more for each nurse group said they used the term "drug seeking" in talking about patients, but less than 10% said they used it in charting. After completing the survey, approximately one half or more of nurses in each group were less inclined to use the term. The use of stigmatizing terms in clinical practice is addressed with suggestions for alternative approaches to patient behavior related to requesting opioids for pain relief.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-136
Number of pages15
JournalPain Management Nursing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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