Nurses Struggling With Addiction

Nurses Struggling With AddictionWriting for the American Journal of Nursing, Patricia Maher-Brisen calls addiction an occupational hazard in nursing. Addiction is a real problem affecting the lives of many nurses. It should not come as a complete shock, as nurses along with doctors and others in the medical field have unique access to prescription drugs. They also spend a great deal of time in high stress environments, a common culprit when it comes to influencing and encouraging drug abuse. Maher-Brisen lists the following factors that contribute to nurses’ drug abuse:

  • Working a night shift or rotating shifts
  • Critical care work
  • Excessive overtime
  • Musculoskeletal injuries and pain
  • Knowledge of medication

The stress nurses experience at work and the access to drugs which their job affords them make it clear why drug addiction can be a struggle for nurses.

Signs of Drug Abuse in Nurses

One of the reasons many nurses feel afraid or unable to come forward and seek help with their addiction is the fear of losing their job or worse. They are better served, of course, by managers and superiors who are on the lookout for early signs of struggle and who offer help to them, in the form of rehab and treatment. If you are a nurse manager or work in some other way with nurses, it is good to know the signs to look out for. If you see them, you can make the decision as to how to best handle the situation in a way that assists rather than abandons the nurse in need.

Maher-Brisen lists the following signs of nurse drug abuse in the workplace:

  • Arriving early, staying late and coming to work on scheduled days off
  • Excessive wasting of drugs
  • Regularly signing out large quantities of controlled drugs
  • Volunteering often to give medication to other nurses’ patients
  • Taking frequent bathroom breaks
  • Patients reporting unrelieved pain despite adequate prescription of pain medication
  • Discrepancies in the documentation of controlled substance administration
  • Medications being signed out for patients who have been discharged or transferred or who are off the unit for procedures or tests.

Obviously, this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated in a hospital or any other medical setting. It puts patients, co-workers and the offending nurse themselves at risk. However, there are alternatives to disciplinary action such as recovery monitoring and peer assistance programs that can be chosen in order to assist the nurses’ recovery as opposed to simply punishing them for their struggle.

Help for Nurses Struggling with Addiction

If you are a nurse who struggles with addiction or an employer who fears one of your employees is struggling, we can help. Call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline to speak with a representative who can assist you in finding the treatment strategy that’s right for you or for your employee. If you are a nurse struggling with addiction, you are not alone. There are many like you who have struggled and recovered. Call today and let us help you get your life back.