Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Document Type

Major Paper


School of Nursing



Date of Original Version



Emergency department patients often present with a chief complaint of pain. There is a unique population of patients who present with this chief complaint in an effort to obtain narcotics for non-medical use. This population is often referred to as drug-seekers and there is little information available to define what exactly nurses mean when they use this term. This study utilized a descriptive survey design to gain a better understanding of nurses’ use of the term drug-seeker. Respondents agreed on a variety of behaviors that lead them to identify patients as drug-seeking and expressed a frustration with this population of patients. Many respondents identified a lack of clear policies and education around this population as a challenge. By understanding how nurses use the term drug-seeking, and developing an understanding what some of their concerns are regarding this population, the opportunity presents itself for the development of educational programs in order to train health care providers to best care for this challenging population. Additionally, the opportunity exists for policy development and implementation around this population in order to provide safe, comprehensive, and satisfactory care.