Monday January 22nd 2018

Trusted Helpline
Help Available 24/7

Addiction treatment for nurses

Special Populations

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.

Trusted Helpline
Help Available 24/7
  • Addiction education
  • Aftercare
  • Intensive treatment
  • Peer-to-peer support
  • Privacy
  • 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.

4. Aftercare

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.

Addicted nurses

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.

Reference Sources: The Addiction Recovery Guide: Nurse Addict
Carle: Addiction Recovery Center
Lippincott’s Nursing Center: Addiction: An Occupational Hazard in Nursing
Resurrection Health Care: Nurses with Chemical Dependency: Promoting Successful Treatment and Reentry
HAZELDEN: Nurses overcome barriers to addiction care

Leave a Reply

13 Responses to “Addiction treatment for nurses
6:21 pm August 9th, 2015

I am a former oncology RN. I was a nurse long before the development of safety devices to help move and transfer patients. As a result, I injured my back many years ago and suffered from chronic lower back pain. In order to function, I took prescribed pain medications which I ultimately became addicted to. Out of desperation and fear of disclosing my addiction, last year I diverted a narcotic from a patient’s PCA machine. I confessed this to my employer and sought help. The outcome was 50 days in jail, a felony conviction, loss of my nursing license and 5 years felony probation. Prior to this event, I had never had so much as a traffic ticket. I was the poster child of nursing, a seasoned oncology nurse who had practiced for over 12 years and touched thousands of lives. I was a charge nurse and a preceptor to new nurses. No one, myself included, ever saw this coming. Nursing drug diversion is an unspoken epidemic problem in the healthcare facility. It caused me to lose everything. However, I have to believe there is a reason why this tragedy befell my life. I am also offering my experience in anyway I can to help those advocating for drug diversion awareness and policy reform. Perhaps getting an inside look at how easy it is for this to occur undetected can help policy makers create functional changes in the healthcare community. Thank you for all you are doing for this pervasive issue.

11:51 pm January 7th, 2016

I was a nurse and midwife in the UK. I had a riding accident and was prescribed opiates. For years I took them as prescribed but then depression hit and I started using opiates for mental pain too until I was terribly addicted. I took drugs from work and rather than getting help ended up being struck off and having a breakdown which lead to further criminal activity as I didn’t care anymore- I even tried ending my life. I am now in recovery and have 2 beautiful kids which are my whole world and reason to get up each morning. I have read that a possible 1 in 10 nurses are suffering from addiction. It seems when doctors abuse drugs they can still practice so why come down so hard on nurses??? If help was available more nurses would seek help and be in recovery but they are terrified of coming forward because of what happened to me. Is it possible for a nurse having suffered from addiction in the UK to resume their career??? I think not.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:29 pm January 14th, 2016

Hi, Joanne. I’m really sorry that you’ve experienced all that. And, I totally agree with you about taking away nurses’ practice while doctors can still work. It’s not fair! I’d suggest you consult somebody who is familiar whit case like yours. Maybe, you can find lawyer or carrier consultant to answer your concern.

2:44 pm February 2nd, 2016

It has come to our attention that a CNA is a regular user of marijuana and has been smoking pot to control her symptoms of morning sickness. She is pregnant with twins. Any advice on how to proceed?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
8:47 pm February 16th, 2016

Hi, Angel. That’s harsh… I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:

12:30 am April 10th, 2016

I lost everything . I was primary bread winner in my family. I admitted to my employer that I had diverted pecocet from a script a patient brought to the ED and was admitted. I had had treatment twice before and established long periods of sobriety but my fibromyalgia and back pain due to work injur became unbearable. They convinced me to resign and allowed me to self report to the board. I was not able to get my short term or long term disability which I had paid for years. So social security became my only option. Of course that involved a very long wait during which I became unable to afford the urine drug screens the board required for continued licensure so I had to surrender my license . My husband was already on social security. He had been a contractor all his life so he only qualified for 650$ a month so we lost our home we had built as well as a lot of friends. We ended up in a one bedroom apartment with a very small kitchen and bathroom with just a shower. No more warm soaks for me! It was embarrassing and humiliating. It affected everyone in my family negatively. I never did get to go back to nursing. I work 15 hours a week for ten dollars an hour helping elderly and disabled people with their activities of daily living, it is not always a good situation . Though at least I avoided conviction and legal troubles except for bankruptcy . Think long and hard about reporting to your employer unless you know they have a program in place to treat addicted nurses. Doctors in my state do not lose the ability to practice. It is so unfair .

3:42 pm January 5th, 2017

I’m a registered nurse in the UK and am currently in recovery on a methadone programme for opiate addiction. Like many other people, my problem developed from using codeine for back pain, initially prescribed for me and ended up 4 years later a raging addict. I stole drugs from work and had to resign whilst under suspicion, iv wrecked my career, I cannot work and am so ashamed that iv ruined not just mine but my families life. I agree with Joanne in that there is no support system in place in the UK to help nurses with this problem. We are just hung out to dry, its a very lonely state

2:54 am February 21st, 2017

I have been an RN in California for 10 years. I have always been a heavy drinker and recreational drug user. I have never stolen drugs from work nor been intoxicated at work either. However, I feel that my lifestyle of drinking and partying (on my days off) is getting old and want to seek treatment. My only concern is that I’d potentially be reported to the CABRN as a “threat to public health.” Would that happen or could I seek treatment from a psychiatrist or 12-step meetings and not be reported due to HIPPA and confidentiality rules.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:11 pm March 31st, 2017

Hi Carol. I suggest that you call the helpline on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

7:47 pm July 6th, 2017

Hi, I feel like I have many addictions , Alcohol, relationships, benadryl, yes benadryl and now meth. I became involved in a very toxic relationship , he was an active drug user I am an LPN, it began sniffing the meth then I realized he was also doing pain pills and xanax, I tried the pill but made me sick, so I strictly stayed with meth. While I was at work he would text me to bring him home stuff . I guess because I wanted him to love me I would sneak out pills for him . I became heavy in the meth began to shoot it. And because of the come downs I would get sick also … I couldn’t function at work. Felt like I was going crazy with the emotional rollercoaster, I last used on Saturday, he left me .. I’m figuring because I had no more access to the pills. And no more money to pay his bills and habit also. So here I am Alone. Going threw withdrawals if both him and the meth. No job. About to lose my apartment. I let my life spiral away from me. So fast . I’m lost.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:29 pm July 20th, 2017

Hi Melanie. Call the helpline you see on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

4:10 pm October 3rd, 2017

If health insurance is used to pay for treatment, will my employer, a major hospital system, be able to see that I am in treatment? Will I be in jeopardy of losing my job or be subjected to a drug test if they see that I have an addiction issue based on treatment that I’m seeking?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:26 pm October 20th, 2017

Hi Alyson. I suggest that you consult with a person from your health insurance company about your concerns.

Leave a Reply

Trusted Helpline
Help Available 24/7