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What Happens When a Nurse Has a Substance Abuse Problem?

Amanda Bucceri Androus is a Registered Nurse from Sacramento, California. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She began her career working night shifts on a pediatric/ med-surg unit for six years, later transferring to a telemetry unit where she worked for four more years. She currently works as a charge nurse in a busy outpatient primary care department. In her spare time she likes to read, travel, write, and spend time with her husband and two children.

They work long hours, they’re on the frontlines dealing with sick patients, and many work in understaffed facilities. With Covid spreading across the world, these things are even more prevalent. They’re also expected to be happy, friendly, and compassionate 100% of the time. As a result, many nurses cope with the stress by self-medicating.

Female nurses are more likely to abuse prescription drugs, such as hydrocodone, than their male counterparts. Although women represent 97 percent of the profession, male nurses use drugs at higher rates. Nurses often exude professionalism, appearing calm and courteous in hospital settings. However, these workers, like the rest of society, face personal challenges that cause many of them to turn to drugs or alcohol. Our community offers unique perspectives on lifelong recovery and substance use prevention, empowering others through stories of strength and courage. From people in active recovery to advocates who have lost loved ones to the devastating disease of addiction, our community understands the struggle and provides guidance born of personal experience.

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To learn more about our program or if someone you know needs help, call 888-SOBER-40 and begin the journey to recovery today. In our program there was a whole lecture on “The Impaired Nurse” to make our students aware of the existence of the problem and the consequences. Note that when I was in nursing school, we were told that only a small percentage of users of opioids became addicted to them, that there was only a small risk. This is the same problem that involves physicians who prescribed such drugs so readily to their patients.

nurses addicted to drugs

Like with all addicts, substance abuse among nurses begins with a nurse taking the substance for fun or to cope with stress. Alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs are taken as a way of relaxing. Before they know it, they can no longer function without the drug of choice. They feel the urge to take more and more of it with each passing day. What sets doctors and nurses apart from other professionals is their accessibility to highly sought-after drugs — because it’s easier for them to get the drugs, it’s easier to create or feed an addiction. Kappel agrees that removing the stigma is one of the best ways to get medical professionals who have a substance misuse disorder the help they may need.

Always remember that “clean and sober” is a responsibility for life that benefits your well-being and the safety of your patients. Between 14% and 20% of all RNs in the U.S. may have a problem with drug or alcohol dependence or abuse. The current research has shown that the prevalence of nurses with substance use problems is actually similar to the general population. Journals.sagepub.com needs to review the security of your connection before proceeding. There’s no changing the past, but I can use it to demonstrate to others that overcoming addiction is a strength, not a weakness diminishing your worth as a nurse.

Addressing addiction in the medical field

They have professionals and trained volunteers you can speak with, and also groups for friendship support. Substance abuse is treatable, and nurses can get the individualized care they need. With appropriate support, a nurse can enter recovery and look forward to transitioning back to work.

  • From people in active recovery to advocates who have lost loved ones to the devastating disease of addiction, our community understands the struggle and provides guidance born of personal experience.
  • The Study Psychologist is a licenced and trained professional within the social- and healthcare industry.
  • The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
  • But there are many other reasons why nurses turn to drugs or alcohol.

On the other hand, catching addictions early is important for quick recovery. You need to be keen about your actions and those of your colleagues so as to know when to seek help. Past-year alcohol use was also highest among nurses in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, with a prevalence of 42.9%. “Given that 18.0% of nurses in our study meet substance use problem criteria overall, this issue bears continuing scrutiny from policy makers and other stakeholders,” the authors wrote.

Also, research what support groups may be available in your community. Every situation is unique, but in my case, admitting that I needed help and accepting treatment wasn’t the end of my career, as I’d feared. At times, the journey has been humiliating, nerve-wracking, exhausting and expensive. here’s why you wake up early after a night of drinking However, the well-being and personal growth I’ve cultivated in sobriety have been more than worth it. A common theme among nurse addicts is self-medication, and I was no different. Before I ever took daily drinks or habitually popped pills, I had become a burned-out nurse, exhausted and in pain.

They are the ones who are most likely to experience verbal or physical abuse from patients. Workplace bullying is also an issue for some nurses, which only adds to the stress of an already-stressful job. Most nurses work 12-hour shifts or longer with little recovery time to get fully rested. After a while, the hours take a toll, causing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

She pointed out this is especially true if hospitals actively let their workers know they’ll be able to keep their jobs, regardless of what job it is, once they’re well. “They offered to let me keep my license if I agreed to a multitude of stipulations, but after months of weighing all my options, I decided to give up my license,” she said. In fact, the first time she took a controlled substance home from the hospital, she said, it was an accident.

Delaney, 40, now sober and living in Oxford, is a certified nursing assistant who is looking for a nursing job. It is a disease that can only be resolved through proper treatment. You may find yourself more irritable and treating colleagues and family members wrongly. You may also underperform at work and cause medical errors that can have dire consequences. Emotional outbursts such as extreme anger or laughter outbursts are signs of substance abuse.

Substance abuse among male, female nurses:

A survey of 2,700 certified registered nurse anesthetists who had been in practice between 10 and 20 years revealed nearly 9 percent misused opioids in 2006, per the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. More than 4 percent of this group misused midazolam, a sedative. Co-occurring what makes alcohol so addictive disorders, such as depression and PTSD, and genetics contribute to substance abuse. But there are many other reasons why nurses turn to drugs or alcohol. You will also find information on spotting the signs and symptoms of substance use and hotlines for immediate assistance.

nurses addicted to drugs

When I had Psychology Nursing students in clinical at a mental hospital in Connecticut, we once met a nurse who had gone there voluntarily, on her vacation from work so as not to inform her employer, to get sober. She worked in an emergency room, and said that it was easy to steal opioids there. Connecticut consumers were billed for more than $1 billion in facility fees for outpatient services in 2015 and 2016, documents filed with the state Office of Health Care Access show. Twenty-two of Connecticut’s 30 hospitals charged these fees, bringing in $600.7 million in 2015 and another $488.8 million in 2016, according to an analysis by Conn. Kaiser had her nursing license placed on probation in 2009 after she stole a sedative at a nursing home. The license was revoked in 2010 because she abused heroin and morphine.

The Study Psychologist is a licenced and trained professional within the social- and healthcare industry. Hanken offers services of a study coach that can provide tips and tricks in study habits and time management. Hanken also has a student priest that you can speak with about everything from relations to loneliness, faith and doubts. Some nurses handle work and personal stress relatively well until they experience a back, shoulder or knee injury that takes some time to resolve. They visit their doctor and are prescribed pain medication to treat the injury.

Why Medical Professionals Turn To Drugs Or Alcohol

Substance use can affect any class, gender, race, and profession, and nursing is no exception. Nurses are trusted to protect the patients in their care from harm. This includes the ability to perform their tasks at a high level. Taking care of patients while under the control of substance use puts the entire process of nursing in danger. Nurses who attempt to divert medications have to conceal their activities from coworkers and supervisors. Signs that a nurse may be diverting drugs from patients include sudden bouts of irritability and an increased number of mistakes while on shift.

Today, the affected nurse is often referred to a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program where they can start treatment quickly. They are removed from an environment where they are providing patient care. Diverting medications means that patients do not receive the full dose that their doctor has ordered for them. A certain amount of the medication has been diverted to the nurse who has a substance abuse or addiction issue instead. Nurses are often handling powerful painkillers and other prescription drugs.

Medical professionals are not immune from developing a dependence on or a full-blown addiction to drugs or alcohol. What I didn’t forecast was a descent into professional burnout and substance abuse that nearly spelled the the end of my career. Bradford has a proven track record of helping nurses recover from substance abuse.

Numerous substance abuse assistance programs and treatment options exist to help them overcome addiction. Since that time, many states have enacted non-disciplinary rehabilitation programs to assist nurses with recovery. These intensive programs allow the nurse to gradually return to the working environment once it can be established and confirmed that the nurse is safe to practice in a clinical setting. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, who oversees each BON, has many resources for nurses and nurse leaders on addressing the disease of substance abuse disorder.

Different people cope with such issues differently and unfortunately some turn to drug abuse. As a result, some nurses suffer from alcohol and other drugs abuse. The problem is that they may carry on with their usual life taking care of patients even with drug abuse. This may go unnoticed alcoholic lung disease for a long period of time and can lead to dangerous situations for them and their patients. Success stems from being enrolled in a treatment program where the staff members are familiar with treating medical professionals and the challenges that come with this type of addiction.

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