Could an employee with a hidden drug addiction put your livelihood at risk?

Quite possibly. Painkiller addiction is a major problem in the United States right now, and any profession that grants employees access to narcotics is ripe for abuse. Veterinarians who don’t exercise extreme caution with their drug supplies may be inadvertently feeding an employee’s addiction or allowing an employee to supply others. You only have to look at the case of a veterinary technician in Massachusetts who stole 7,800 pills from a clinic and changed clinic records to hide the theft to realize how serious the problem can be.

While the employee who steals from you may be the one in trouble with the law, you could face trouble from the licensing board if the board decides that you didn’t handle the issue in a responsible and ethical manner. To protect yourself:

1. Don’t believe it couldn’t happen to you

Even if you’ve known your assistants for years or are related to them, it can happen. Drug addiction knows no boundaries or loyalties.

2. Don’t overlook signs that theft might be happening

If you start missing inventory, see missing pages in your records or note any other irregularities, investigate. Don’t accept anyone’s assurances that everything is fine until you have checked things out for yourself.

3. When you hire a new employee, do background checks

In this day and age, that’s an absolute necessity. You should also insist on a drug screening before a job offer is finalized.

4. Put video surveillance up

There should be a camera on your storage room and wherever your inventory of drugs is kept. You should also have surveillance over the computer that’s used to order drugs from the supplier, just in case one employee manages to get another’s password.

5. Report any thefts

Finally, this is the No. 1 thing you have to do if you want to preserve your license to practice. Trying to cover for an employee with an addiction is behavior that doesn’t do much for the public’s trust in you.

None of this will guarantee you’ll stay problem-free. It will, however, keep you in the good graces of the licensing board if a problem does happen.

If your integrity has been called into question over any issue and your veterinary license is at risk, make sure that you understand your legal rights during the investigative process.