No one expects to become an addict. Substances like drugs and alcohol that people use to relax, ease stress or relieve pain suddenly become a powerful force that seems to control your every decision. Almost 2 million people in the United States struggle with addictions to prescription drugs, and countless others abuse alcohol and other substances.
If this is your struggle and you are a nurse, you are not alone. About 10 percent of the nurses in the country suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol. This is not surprising since you have two critical factors working against you: high levels of stress and easy access to drugs. Nevertheless, you may already be aware of how substance abuse can affect many important areas of your life.
As a health care professional, your instinct may be to undertake your own treatment when you fall ill. However, trying to treat your own drug or alcohol addiction can be a serious mistake. In an effort to regain control of your life, you may decide to simply stop drinking or taking the pills. This can cause your body to react with violent and even deadly withdrawal symptoms. You may have witnessed this in your patients, and it is not something anyone should undergo alone.
Seeking treatment may be the last thing you want to consider, especially if you fear it will endanger your professional license and your career. Nevertheless, your life may depend on it, and you can be assured there are advocates waiting to assist you in your efforts to break the addiction.
Your nursing instincts are to place your patient’s well-being above all else. If this is compromised by drug-seeking or alcohol use on the job, your patients may suffer. Even if you never use drugs or drink while working, your mind may remain foggy from the previous day’s substance abuse. You may be unable to focus on providing proper care, and you may mix up medications or forget to administer treatment altogether. You may also face the temptation of working around narcotics, which may be overwhelming to handle without professional help.
For many nurses, their career as a caregiver is a large part of what defines them personally. You may be one of those for whom the privilege of being a nurse is a source of pride. Substance abuse issues are among the top reasons why nurses lose their licenses and have to fight hard to regain a foothold in the job they love.
If you are facing disciplinary hearings before the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing or you face other administrative issues related to drug or alcohol use, you want to be sure you have the best opportunity for obtaining treatment that will improve your health and preserve your status as a nurse.