Substance Abuse and Addiction among RNs
Mental Health Nursing
ITT Technical Institute
Substance abuse and addiction among registered nurses is a quiet growing issue in the health care industry. Sadly, nurses are not the only profession that falls guilty to this issue. This is also a big issue among physicians as well. “Addiction among nurses has been recognized by professionals in the field for over a hundred years” (Heise 2003). According to Science Daily, “As many as 10-20% of nurses and nursing students may have substance abuse and addiction problems” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). This is roughly about 250,000 nurses and students, which is only 10%. “While the risk of addiction is not limited to any one specialty, the specialties with the highest prevalence of substance abuse uses are ICU, ER, OR, and anesthesia” (Heacock, 2013). “The most frequently abused substance is alcohol, followed by amphetamines, opiates (such as fentanyl), sedatives, tranquillizers, and inhalants, according to the ANA” (Copp, 2009). This growing epidemic needs to stop for a number of reasons. The first priority is the safety of the patients. The other reasons would be the safety of the nurse, the costs that tie into this, and the wasted time trying to figure out what is not accounted for.
There are numerous reasons as to why nurses fall victim to substance abuse and addiction. Some of the main reasons are the following: job stress, easy access to medications, and being workaholic. The reason why one may believe job stress can cause a nurse to use substances is because of the long shifts and possibly the environment in which one may work. Also nurses have to meet certain physical and emotional needs for their patients. They have to make life or death choices in the matter of seconds. That alone can take a serious toll on some nurses. Nurses may feel as if they do a few substances here and there to get through the shifts they will not get addicted because they have a big background of pharmacology. Usually and unfortunately that is not the case provided by the 10-20% that we know of. Something small turns into something bigger than once imagined. Nurses may also feel since they see the positive effects some medications have on their patients it may work for them. Being a nurse, you have access to all medications all the time. This results in the biggest issue which is patient safety. If the nurse is taking the patients medications, is the patient being treated properly? No. From what has been mentioned, this happens all the time. It has even been talked about that nurses take and use medications of patients who have refused the medication or have been discharged. Last but not least, some nurses feel like once the money begins to flow in, they become very greedy. With these twelve hour shifts nurses can do, it makes them more available as far as overtime is concerned. For example, in one week a nurse can work three twelve hour shifts...