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Why Do Nurses Struggle with Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol?

Nurses often appear like they are the measure of calm to patients and their colleagues, but underneath the veneer, they may be struggling silently. These workers face personal challenges that cause them to turn towards drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse is an epidemic that has taken over the healthcare industry, impacting one in 10 nurses and many more doctors and physicians. Substance use disorders change a person’s reaction time and performance. When dealing with life or death situations and medications, this is not acceptable. Nurses on the frontlines need help to deal with the addiction. Find out why it happens and how to offer support.

Why Nurses Abuse Drugs

Disorders like depression and PTSD can occur for nurses or anyone else in the healing profession. There are many reasons why nurses suffer from chronic health issues, substance abuse, and other challenges. Co-occurring disorders can be challenging to treat because it means there are other things going on aside from addiction. There may be mental health issues along with it that complicates things. Some other reasons nurses abuse drugs may include:

  • Fatigue: working long hours with shifts that may turn into double shifts, few breaks, and heavy lifting or emotional situations can be exhausting. This leaves little time to decompress or rest leading to self-medication
  • Stress: dealing with a range of emotions, physical and emotional situations without support, and job-related stress can lead to self-medication
  • Post-traumatic stress: working in high-stress jobs leads to burnout and PTSD eventually for some healthcare providers
  • Increased access: hospitals have medications and painkillers which can hurt nurses and healthcare providers. These medicines induce cravings and heightened temptation when in close proximity

Addiction Treatment

Many hospitals ignore substance abuse for many reasons. The programs have proven effective in reducing substance abuse. There is a stigma around speaking out because of fear of losing their license to practice their profession. Seeking help and taking time off work are also difficult, but necessary. Hospitals are increasingly providing support and help for people who work in hospitals, including nurses, so they can heal and go back to work. Comprehensive support programs are offered through peer assistance services. These are intended to help nurses overcome drug or alcohol abuse. More states recognize help is needed and requires hospitals to establish procedures for prevention, detection, and resolution of substance abuse for nurses. Finding help is available more than ever and nurses can take advantage of it to support their journey of healing from addiction. 

The Guest House is based on a Therapeutic Communty model. We help people learn how to live free of addiction. Nurses are welcome to the program as they journey forward in healing from addiction and mental health issues. Call us to find out more: 855-483-7800.