My best friend is a drug addict. She has completely fallen down the rabbit hole of re-occurring drug addiction. There must be a name for this. The constant on and off again. Like binging on Oreos but it’s drugs. Her home reflects her neglected soul. It is empty except for furniture, clothing and trash scattered in piles throughout. Flies dance on the mold of a Dr. Pepper long neglected. She has told me so many times, “I just wish nurses could get help.”.

And so, I am helping you now my friend, and speaking for everyone who cannot. Nurses want help from drug addiction.

It is common knowledge among nurses that we must NEVER tell anyone that we have a drug addiction problem. A nurse can have their licenses taken away and face jail time for a stealing narcotics. If your workplace finds out that you are a drug addict, even if seeking help, your license and job could be taken away. One would assume that there are all kinds of nursing help groups, public forums, toll free numbers and people to talk to if you are a nurse addicted to drugs. There is not.

I ran across this article which so very well described the crisis that nurses endure. He stated:

“There is no support whatsoever for nurses who are still working while on all the drugs in the universe. Each state has its own Board of Nursing, but they only have programs to help after you’ve hit rock bottom or hurt a patient. Which is, you know, kind of too late for the patient.” ~JF Sargent*

Every single long term care facility that I worked in had at least one, and sometimes a dozen nurses who were drug addicts. One nurse constantly stole insulin needles from the stock room. She worked there for years, and no one ever suspected anything. Just like every other addict, these nurses don’t always use the medication they are stealing. They can sell or trade the drug for something that they want.

To explain how easy it is to steal medication, I need to tell you about the Narcotic sheet. The Sheet is an old fashioned piece of typing paper. On it is written the date, patients name, the medication, the dose, and how many pills are on a card of pills. Every single narcotic in the building has a sheet and is in a binder that is kept on the medication chart. The narcotic is counted when it comes into the facility, and then counted again at each and every shift change. If there is a discrepancy in the MAR between shifts, the nurse must call her supervisor and report the error.

The nurse in charge has complete access to the narcotics. It is also their job to assess each residents pain level on every single shift. You can see how easy it would be to take a residents medication. Basically this is like giving an alcoholic the keys to your liquor store and then asking him to run the cash register.

The drug addicted nurse isn’t evil. No one starts nursing with future plans to be an addict. The drug addicted nurse needs a safe environment to seek help without being judged or punished. We are living through a time when we need nurses the most, yet we show no basic appreciation. Nurses are tired, they are burned out and scared. We MUST take a stand and develop a better way to take care of them, so that they can care for us. Mental health is of the upmost importance right now.

Should nurses be punished for wanting to get help for their drug addiction?

As long as we keep it all hidden, all daintily swept under the rug, it will always be an even bigger problem later. Let’s open up the dialogue on this ever growing problem. Do you think instant job loss is ok if a nurse admits they have a problem? Why aren’t nurses being offered tools to stop the addiction? The world can’t afford to keep ignoring this problem.

For more information and resources for addiction, please see https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/drug-abuse-and-addiction.htm

*JF Sargent post referenced here: https://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-1382-5-terrifying-things-i-learned-as-drug-addicted-nurse.html

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Birdie Pearl

Birdie Pearl

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An old nurse, now hermit. Trying to write this all down before I forget it.