Substance Abuse Among Nurses
It takes a special kind of person to become a nurse. The profession requires passion, poise, and a profound expertise of what works best for patient treatment and subsequent healing. 12-hour shifts are routine, and they regularly turn into longer than that. Nights. Weekends. Holidays. Around-the-clock care means many of these occasions are forfeited.
If the investment of time weren’t enough, nurses are subjected to grueling work each day. Hospitals are stressful settings, and the prevalence of sickness, death, and tragedy has an effect on anyone’s psyche. Nurses are strong. They are often able to work through it or hide their own feelings. After all, the patient comes first.
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Why Do Nurses Abuse Substances?
Substance abuse among nurses sometimes stems from self-treatment. This starts with an individual diagnosing themselves and believing, based on their medical know-how, they can heal themselves with medication. Such actions set a dangerous precedent; nurses are then more likely to believe they have a handle on the situation even if things are clearly spiraling out of control. It creates a sort of cognitive dissonance. They know substance use disorders are hazardous but that their expertise counteracts the behavior.
There can be no discussion on addiction within the field of nursing without mentioning accessibility. Very few other professions place individuals within such close proximity to so many highly addictive substances. While alcohol is the most commonly misused product by nurses, medicines that are meant to heal can quickly become a nightmare. Benzos. Amphetamines. Opioids. All prescription medications are within reach.
Signs of On-the-Job Drug Use for Nurses:
Numerous signs of on-the-job abuse exist. Though, it can be expressly difficult to identify such trends among nurses for one simple fact: they are experts on the subject matter. Many instances of nurses’ substance use disorders go unreported, and unnoticed because they are able to put on a façade until things become too late. An observant co-worker will need to be extra attentive. Indicators include:
- Easily distracted
- Secretive or suspicious behavior
- Mood changes
- Consistently choosing less-supervised shifts (often during the night)
- Slurred words
- Jerky movements and twitching
- Making strange claims or excuses
- Random bouts of increased productivity
Just because nurses provide immunities does not mean that they themselves are immune. For all their strength and fortitude, even nurses have to come to terms with the trauma they experience. If this isn’t done in a healthy way, then the alternative can be a more destructive coping mechanism. National nursing organizations have programs in place to help nurses through their trying times. Best of all, most nurses are able to return to a career of helping others once they’ve overcome this life obstacle.