Date of Award

1980

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

First Advisor

Douglas Alder

Second Advisor

Thomas Bahler

Abstract

Between the months of June 1978 and June 1979, I was employed at Sunshine Terrace, a nursing home in Logan, Utah. In the year I spent there working as an orderly on the wing for incontinent male patients, I was exposed to a lot of things of which I had previously been unaware.

One which I observed was the liberal use of medications. At each nuses' station there was a small room which contained about six cabinets full of prescription drugs for the forty or so patients on that wing. At least every four hours the medication nurse would prepare a cart, filling a little cup with pills and capsules for each patient. Through questioning of these nurses I discovered that a lot of medications were solely prescribed to keep the patients sedated. One nurse told me that "the place would be a madhouse" if all the people that were on sedation were suddenly taken off. In experiences I had with unruly, uncognizant patients I could understand the reason for such use of drugs. But I wondered if some people weren't overmedicated.

At the same time, I had heard and read much from the media about the liberal use of Valium, an anti-anxiety agent. I wondered if it was used extensively at the nursing home. After investigating this, I found that there did not seem to be much use of it at Sunshine Terrace. But my curiosity had been piqued and I wanted to know if Valium use in America was as extensive as the sedative medications seemed to be at the nursing home.

Originally I intended to focus on nursing home use of Valium. But initial research into the literature showed little had been done in that area. I focused my attention instead on claims of abuse of Valium by the general populace. The articles I had read and the presentations I had seen made Valium sound like a drug gone bad. So I made a literature search to see if I could ascertain the truth of those accusations. The report which follows is the result of that search. It is limited by the materials which were available to me. Actual laboratory research into the problem would have been more desirable but the limitations of my finances and limited research experience made it impossible.

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