Why EMS should always report stolen drugs to police

Drug addiction is a serious issue in EMS, but so is stealing drugs for a profit; involving law enforcement helps determine the true nature of the crime

We know that drug addiction among EMS providers is a serious, real issue. We have easy access to controlled substances, and in many situations, it’s fairly straightforward to hide the illegal activity. 

It’s an illness that needs to be confronted by management when discovered. In many cases, rehabilitation is possible even when it’s the harder road to follow. Using the carrot and stick approach of legal action, a guilty EMS provider has an opportunity to escape a terrible problem and resolve the criminal charges, while remaining a valued member of a department.

However, there are certain nefarious situations where drugs are stolen for profit ─ and that’s a real crime. The situation is the same ─ we transport patients who have their painkillers and psych meds with them, making it an easy theft. We can replace our controlled substances with normal saline, when they don’t come in tamper-resistant containers. It’s an easy way to turn a buck or two.

Police in Utah are upset that a medic in a suspected drug theft resigned before an investigation, and they’ve been denied access to information for the case. Whether he is actually guilty of these suspicious remains to be seen, but a department has an obligation to report these crimes, regardless of the intent.

Having law enforcement involved will slow down the discovery process, allowing evidence to be collected and the true nature of the crime to become evident. Policies allow equitable treatment of the guilty based on the intent, and treats EMS providers similarly to other civilians under the law. 

Moreover, it also helps to prevent downstream issues. We don’t know yet what has happened to the EMS provider involved in this incident, or even the previous ones reported last year. Is he stealing drugs in another jurisdiction? Has his life come apart because the illness was never treated? Is he completely innocent?

For now, we are in the dark. I suspect though, that won’t be for long.

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