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Substance Abuse Within The Nursing Profession

1258 words - 5 pages

As Heise states, substance abuse among nurses a growing problem that is often overlooked by society. Addiction has been a problem in the nursing profession for over one hundred years (as cited in Monroe & Kenaga, 2010). According to the American nurses association, it is speculated that 6%-8% of nurses have a drug or alcohol related problem (as cited in Trinkoff & Storr, 1998). Substance abuse not only affects the individual abuser, but also can negatively impact those around them, most significantly their patients. Chemical dependence if often viewed as a lack of will power, but through education and research, this issue should be looked at as an actual disease. The education of nursing students is the first step in helping those with a dependence problem get the treatment they need to help solve this prevalent issue. Different specialties with the nursing profession are more likely than others to have higher substance abuse rates, due to work setting and availability of controlled substances (Trinkoff & Storr, 1998). There are many risk factors that lead to substance abuse problems, such as behavioral characteristics and psychological factors (Griffith, 1999).
The American Psychological Association definition of addiction is defined as “a state of severe psychological and behavioral dependence on drugs or alcohol characterized by compulsive use, a preoccupation with securing its supply and a tendency for relapse after discontinuation of the substance (as cited in Griffith, 1999). As the definition explains, addiction is strongly related to both behavioral and psychological factors, which can be developed at a young age. Psychological risk factors include “chaotic families and lifestyles, childhood victimization, and low self esteem” (Griffith, 1999). Griffith also explains that behavioral characteristics related to substance abuse include identifying with religion, being overemotional, depression, low self-esteem, and self-derogation. Clearly both behavioral and psychological factors can contribute to susceptible substance abuse, which also extends into the field of nursing.
Talbert states that some signs and symptoms of nurses who are abusing substances either on or off the job (2009). The symptoms are general and nonspecific. Many times those closest to them have no idea. Overtime the nurse will begin to exhibit symptoms. According to the DEA, symptoms include: “increased absenteeism, frequent disappearances from the department or unit, excessive amounts of time spent in the medication rooms or near medication carts, work performance alternates between high and low productivity, and inattention or poor judgment (as cited in Talbert, 2009). Other signs may include damaged relationships among colleagues, friends, and patients; heavy ‘wastage’ of drugs; personality changes, such as mood swings, anxiety, depression, and isolation; and increased concerns voiced by patients” (Talbert, 2009). The biggest problem with nurses who abuse is...

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