Although most nurses understand the dangers of addiction, drug abuse and addiction can quickly develop in this population. Why? Two of the biggest reasons for this seem to be a high-stress work environment and ease of access. Addicted nurses may use alcohol or drugs to cope with the anxiety of their often difficult and fast-paced career. And in a medical setting, prescription drugs are often very easy to come by.
So how is addiction treated among nurses? We explore here. Then, we invite your questions about addiction treatment for nurses at the end.
Nurse addiction treatment barriers
Not surprisingly, nurses face a number of barriers before during, and after treatment. This includes general barriers, such as family and career responsibilities, as well as more profession specific barriers.
Some common nurse addiction treatment barriers include
- Ease of access to drug(s) of choice
- Fear of judgement by peers and coworkers
- Fear of ruining a career
- Need for staying alert on the job or relaxing afterwards
Nurses and addiction treatment
Unfortunately, addicted nurses not only put themselves in danger, but also put their patients and co-workers in danger. When it comes to nurses and addiction, treatment is absolutely essential. However, due to the nature of their work, many physicians and medical professionals, as well as nurses may not be willing to seek addiction treatment. They may recognize a substance abuse problem in themselves or may be worried about losing their jobs if anyone finds out they have an addiction.
In order to be effective, addiction treatment programs for nurses should include some of the following important aspects.
- Addiction education
- Intensive treatment
- Peer-to-peer support
- Workplace re-entry plan
Nurse drug addiction treatment
While nurse addiction treatment does differ slightly from addiction treatment for non-medical professionals, it typically follows the same basic steps.
1. Evaluation and assessment
Addicted nurses should be evaluated before entering any addiction treatment program. During this evaluation, an addiction specialist will be able to assess their needs, diagnose mental health disorders, and create an addiction treatment plan.
2. Detox or withdrawal
Detox is highly recommended for addicted nurses before they enter treatment. While in a detox program, nurses can safely go through withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. There is also a much smaller risk of relapse while in a detox facility, since access to drugs or alcohol is non-existent.
3. Psychological addiction treatment therapies
Treatment options for nurses can include residential inpatient treatment, partial inpatient treatment, and intensive outpatient treatment. While in an addiction treatment program, nurses will usually undergo individual behavior therapy, group therapy, and addiction education classes. In some cases, pharmacotherapy may also be used.
Aftercare is an extremely important part of nurse addiction treatment programs. Nurses recovering from addiction will typically need to continue going to outpatient therapy programs as well as group therapy sessions. Most employers will also require nurses recovering from addiction to sign a last-chance contract, which stipulates that a nurse will be terminated in certain situations. For example, they may be terminated if medications are missing during their shift or they fail a drug test.
Although addicted nurses may be hesitant about asking for help, this need not be the case. Many employers will be glad to help, as an addicted nurse is a danger and a liability. Addicted nurses can speak with their human resources office, employer health services, or even a fellow co-worker that they trust. Addicted nurses can also speak with their own primary physicians or an addiction specialist. Anonymous addiction hotlines are another great resource for addicted nurses looking for help, as is your state’s Board of Nursing.
Nurse addiction questions
Struggling with an addiction is a stressful and difficult time, especially if you believe your career is in jeopardy. If you or a loved one is a nurse and in need of addiction treatment, feel free to leave any questions or concerns about your situation in the comments section below. We look forward to helping all of our readers get started on the path to recovery, and you can rest assured that your privacy is our utmost concern.