The following article is a part of conference coverage from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) 34th Annual Conference, held online from September 30 to October 4, 2020. The team at the Clinical Advisor will be reporting on the latest news and research conducted by leading nurses in psychiatry. Check back for more from APNA 2020.


Education for nurses on the misuse of prescription drugs by patients has the potential to improve understanding of the problem and how to prevent harm, according to a presentation at the 2020 meeting of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) held online from September 30 to October 4, 2020.

Because mental health conditions are often complexly interrelated with comorbid substance use disorders and poor adherence to treatment, a team of researchers created a quality improvement project in a healthcare organization to help psychiatric nurses understand the risks associated with medications prone to misuse. From a harm reduction standpoint, healthcare workers should understand the basic risks for patients prescribed medications with potential for misuse, especially in the adolescent/young adult population, noted the researchers.

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The researchers created a brief survey to assess psychiatric nurses’ knowledge and comfort with diversion or misuse of prescription medications, including amphetamines, gabapentinoids, clonidine, second-generation antipsychotics, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, hypnotics, opioids, and stimulants. Nurses reported an increased understanding of harm reduction and nonmedical use of prescription medications.

The presentation authors concluded that educating and assessing nurses on their knowledge of nonmedical use of these medications is an important part of tailoring “nursing clinical education, practice, and research.” 

Visit Clinical Advisor’s meetings section for complete coverage of APNA 2020.


Carlson, K, Potter C, Slifka K. Psychiatric nurses knowledge of misused and diverted medications. Presented at: APNA 34th Annual Conference; September 30-October 4, 2020. Poster 57.