All over the world, nurses suffer from the addictive properties that many of the drugs provide. "(Drug addiction) is a disease that tells you that you don’t have it. It’s the only disease I know that argues with you and says, ‘Look, despite all the evidence, you don’t have a problem’" (Kunyk and Austin, 2005, p. 385). This leads to a lot of substance dependent nurses to work impaired as they don't see their drug usage as a problem. In the recent decade, increasing amounts of nurses have begun to see the effects of substance usage and addiction while on the job. This unpublicized problem that is affecting nurses in America is a problem that should not be ignored as they are the frontline of healthcare.
Issue At Hand
The various responsibilities that nurses encompass can have a detrimental effect as it can lead to long, strenuous shifts. The physical and emotional exhaustion that the nurses are put through on a daily basis can be traumatizing. In many instances, the buildup of unsettling events and pressure creates an incentive for nurses to find a way to rid of memories or stresses (Naegle, 2006). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing discovered that "nurses generally misuse drugs and alcohol at nearly the same rate as the rest of the population" (Dabro et al., 2011, p. 2). This relates to approximately 10 to 20 percent of nurses using and/or abusing drugs and around 8% of nurses using drugs while on the job (as cited in Talbert, 2009, p.17). Out of 11 nurse specialties, surveys showed that 4% smoke marijuana, 7% take prescription drugs, and 16% binge drink alcohol. Women's health, pediatric, emergency room, and general practice nurses were more likely to use marijuana or cocaine, while oncology and administration nurses tended to binge drink more often. Prescription medication use did not differ much among the assorted specialties (Talbert, 2009). "The highest numbers of abusers were found in the specialties of oncology nurses at 42%, psychiatry nurses at 40%, and adult critical care nurses at 38%" (Naegle, 2006, p.60). This quiet epidemic of drug use that is sweeping the nursing workforce has had little to no media exposure and is impacting the healthcare environment at an escalating rate.
Drug usage among nurses can stem from several factors: the high stress environment, family history of drug use, cooperation from colleagues, and easy access to medications. With nurses working around various prescription-type medicines, nurses would have no trouble at all finding their drug of choice. They even share or sell the drugs among each other (Dabro et al., 2011). Whether its alcohol, prescription medicine, marijuana, or other illicit drugs, nurses can use them to energize, relax, or forget. The constant interaction and communication between the nurses, coupled with long days in the hospital, leads to tight-knit bonds because of how much time they spend together (Kunyk & Austin, 2012). This bond, while healthy in some aspects, can...