Nurses Who Are Drug Addicts - page 5

I work with a nurse who I suspect is using drugs, and I think she is stealing them from the facility. Of those of you that have encountered this problem, what were the signs and symptoms? Thanks.... Read More

  1. by   Cattitude
    Quote from AirforceRN2b
    Yes Jill48, I have and still do. ETOH runs strong in my family and I have relatives also into percs and T3s...started after another family member died and went down hill from there. It has taken a serious toll on their lives, in fact I lost both my grandparents to the drink.
    What makes addiction to drugs different from nicotine? I go through withdrawl if I stop smoking. I crave it when I don't have it. I've rolled nickels to buy a pack. Is it different because its legal? Is it not included because then millions of Americans and Canadians (and indeed people worldwide) would have to be labelled as diseased?
    I'm sorry you have family members w/addiction, it's hard I know. In addition to being an addict, I also have family with it as well. But BEING the actual addict brings an understanding that is beyond just being the son or wife or father etc.

    As far as the nicotine issue? Well nicotine doesn't ususally cost you your job, marriage, license, sanity, etc. Most smokers don't steal and commit crimes to get ciggies. While smoking is an addiction, there is a difference in levels.

    Quote from Bluehair
    Our state BON has a program to help get nurse's back to work while they are recovering from addiction. It's pretty strict, not cheap for the nurse going through it. Nurse has to pay her own way for weekly therapy, plus be actively involved in a 12-step program, plus pay for all their own pee tests, etc. BUT - these 2 nurses are great! They are so thankful for a chance to rebuild their lives. They take full responsibility for what they did, and are working to get through the program. Eventually they will 'graduate' and not have to do so much (one only has to do monthly and prn pee tests instead of weekly, submits reports from her NM to BON every other month instead of monthly etc.).
    It feels like it does when I am helping patients, helping a nurse get her feet back on the ground and get her life back. Maybe better.
    Thank you Bluehair.. Most states have alternative programs to assist recovering nurses. they are very intense, time consuming, and expensive for the nurse. Many do last years and these programs closely monitor recovering nurses. It is not easy or quick so most that go through these programs are serious about their recovery.
  2. by   rn/writer
    Quote from Cattitude;2159049[B
    ][/b]
    As far as the nicotine issue? Well nicotine doesn't ususally cost you your job, marriage, license, sanity, etc. Most smokers don't steal and commit crimes to get ciggies. While smoking is an addiction, there is a difference in levels.
    If nicotine were an illegal substance that was under extreme scrutiny and regulation, perhaps we would see the ravaging losses now associated with alcohol and drug addiction. The fact that it is legal, readily available, and not something we routinely have to dispense in a hospital setting takes away the "forbidden fruit" aspect.

    Nicotine addiction seems to level off or progess at a shallow rate compared to ETOH and drug use. Smokers need their fix, but many can cut back to a lower level as long as they get a certain minimum amount. Others don't try to cut back, but neither do they escalate. It's common to hear of two- or three-pack-a-day smokers (occasionally more). But, for whatever reason, there seems to be a leveling-off point beyond which smokers don't generally go. Many drinkers and druggers do keep progressing, needing greater amounts to reach the same high.

    The disease vs. choice conflict, like so many other debates, is futile. Each idea contains part of the truth. Neither contains the whole truth.

    The reality is that addiction is a condition. You don't have a choice about having the condition. You do or you don't have it, and that's a fact. But as with other conditions, you do have a choice about how you live with it. You don't get to opt out of having an overly responsive system that craves certain substances. You do get to decide--when you are clean and sober--whether you will throw yourself headlong into the abyss or whether you will structure you world in such a way that you will avoid as much tempation as possible.

    Addicts are NOT responsible for being addicts. They ARE at least somewhat responsible for remaining addicts.

    Anyone who has the courage, the wisdom, the humility and the strength to fight for their sanity and sobriety has my admiration and respect.
    Last edit by rn/writer on Apr 15, '07
  3. by   jill48
    Quote from AirforceRN2b
    Yes Jill48, I have and still do. ETOH runs strong in my family and I have relatives also into percs and T3s...started after another family member died and went down hill from there. It has taken a serious toll on their lives, in fact I lost both my grandparents to the drink.
    What makes addiction to drugs different from nicotine? I go through withdrawl if I stop smoking. I crave it when I don't have it. I've rolled nickels to buy a pack. Is it different because its legal? Is it not included because then millions of Americans and Canadians (and indeed people worldwide) would have to be labelled as diseased?
    I understand the points that you are making and I am not trying to be rude so please don't take it that way. I am just really interested in what you are saying because I have never known any nurses that feel this way (that I know of, anyway). So, what do you think the difference is between a disease and an addiction? If I'm hearing you correctly, and correct me if I'm wrong, you are saying that an addict asked for whatever happens to them because they chose to take the drug. Is that what you are saying? If so, how do you account for someone who is on prescribed pain medicine and they become addicted? Again, please don't take this sarcastically or the wrong way, I really do want to know what your thinking is behind this. Thanks.
  4. by   AirforceRN
    Quote from jill48
    So, what do you think the difference is between a disease and an addiction? If I'm hearing you correctly, and correct me if I'm wrong, you are saying that an addict asked for whatever happens to them because they chose to take the drug. Is that what you are saying? If so, how do you account for someone who is on prescribed pain medicine and they become addicted? Again, please don't take this sarcastically or the wrong way, I really do want to know what your thinking is behind this. Thanks.
    Easy question first...Do addicts ask for whatever happens to them? No, absolutley not. Losing your home, family, job, acquiring HIV, HepC etc. I don't think anybody asks for that. In saying that however, I think that the vast majority of people do understand that bad things can happen. A nurse stealing meds from work must know that his/her job is at stake. Somebody robbing a bank for drug money knows that they may be caught and sent to prison. They may not be thinking about it at the time, but surely they know that it is a possibility. I think it is the "it will never happen to me" scenerio or the "I'll worry about that if it happens...first things first" scenerio.

    Now the tough question...What is the difference between disease and addiction? I think the whole question here is what is my definition of disease? For me, disease is a state of the body. It is an abnormality in one or many of the body's processes. Cancer, asthma, schizophrenia etc are all diseases. I know that CT and MRIs show abnormalities in the brains of addicts but this is after the fact. Drug use causes changes in the pathways to the brain.

    So, to sum it all up...is it fair to say that drug use can lead to addiction which leads to disease? Sure, smoking and cancer proved that years ago. Is it fair to say that disease lead to an addiction? I don't think so.

    Anyway...I'm sorry that this may be very convaluted. I've tried to type and retype so many times to explain my position but anyway I do it just doesn't sound right. I think in the end calling addiction a disease, at least for me, removes responsibility which I don't think is right. I don't think people should be able to say "I don't have a problem, I have a disease" I know I'm going to take flack for that and I apologize if I offend people by saying it, but it is my opinion.
  5. by   Cattitude
    Quote from AirforceRN2b
    A nurse stealing meds from work must know that his/her job is at stake. Somebody robbing a bank for drug money knows that they may be caught and sent to prison. They may not be thinking about it at the time, but surely they know that it is a possibility. I think it is the "it will never happen to me" scenerio or the "I'll worry about that if it happens...first things first" scenerio.


    Now the tough question...What is the difference between disease and addiction? I think the whole question here is what is my definition of disease? For me, disease is a state of the body. It is an abnormality in one or many of the body's processes. Cancer, asthma, schizophrenia etc are all diseases. I know that CT and MRIs show abnormalities in the brains of addicts but this is after the fact. Drug use causes changes in the pathways to the brain.

    So, to sum it all up...is it fair to say that drug use can lead to addiction which leads to disease? Sure, smoking and cancer proved that years ago. Is it fair to say that disease lead to an addiction? I don't think so.

    Anyway...I'm sorry that this may be very convaluted. I've tried to type and retype so many times to explain my position but anyway I do it just doesn't sound right. I think in the end calling addiction a disease, at least for me, removes responsibility which I don't think is right. I don't think people should be able to say "I don't have a problem, I have a disease" I know I'm going to take flack for that and I apologize if I offend people by saying it, but it is my opinion.
    Ok, first, when an addict is using, they are not thinking of repercussions at all. So a nurse that is diverting will not be thinking of "what happens if I get caught", they are ruled by the disease at that moment. The disease is telling them "get me the drug, NOW".
    Even when you're not using, you WANT to be well and healthy but the darn sickness won't let you! It takes something stronger than the disease to help.

    Addicts DO react differently to drugs BEFORE they become addicts. How come some people HATE how drugs make them feel and others love it? Differences in brain chemistry. Maybe abnormal differences. I know for me, I LOVED the feeling of opiates from Day one. I know poeple that hate that dizzy, fuzzy feeling. I belive they are now finding genetic links to addiction as well. There is so much yet to be known about this field, I think it's too bad that some are so judgemental. (not you)

    As far as calling addiction a disease and having that removing the responsibility. I don't think so. I know that every single addict I know in recovery that calls it a disease, takes full resposibility for their actions, none of them blame their use on the fact of it being a disease. What I have heard is it said "We're not to be blamed for having a disease but to be held accountable and responsible for our recovery"

    One thing I have rarely seen addressed, do we shun those that need heart surgery or a lot of care due to poor dietary choices? I can think of a multitude of diseases caused by those, yet we still look at Htn, diabetes, PVD,CAD, and many more dx's as DISEASE. Yet sometimes those are caused by people's actions as well. Matter of fact, MANY diseases are caused by people's "choices" yet they still get treated with empathy and respect. Addicts have such a long way to go. I know that many a fellow nurse looks at me like dog doo on their shoe.

    Honestly, you don't offend me at all because I have heard much worse and you managed to get your opinion across in a respectful manner. I think that as time goes by, and more and more health professionals are educated and exposed to this, we can change minds and feelings.

    I am already surprised and grateful for some of the wonderful, caring repsonses I have read here in the last several months on this topic and I thank all of you for your input. I one day want to help other nurses like myself and also spread the word about addiction and nurses and recovery!

    Ok, long enough, ack!
  6. by   AirforceRN
    I think one of the best things about nursing is the we develop (or already posses) the ability to discuss with arguing. I appreciate the fact that people let me say my opinion and they feel free to state theirs without others poopooing all over the place.

    Interestingly, I just read part of a study that showed that rats that are addicted to cocaine will choose coke over food and water to the point of starvation. I would like to think that we have more willpower and foresight than a rat but man!!!that has to say something about the power of addiction eh?
  7. by   Lacie
    Quote from Cattitude
    Ok, first, when an addict is using, they are not thinking of repercussions at all. So a nurse that is diverting will not be thinking of "what happens if I get caught", they are ruled by the disease at that moment. The disease is telling them "get me the drug, NOW".
    Even when you're not using, you WANT to be well and healthy but the darn sickness won't let you! It takes something stronger than the disease to help.

    Addicts DO react differently to drugs BEFORE they become addicts. How come some people HATE how drugs make them feel and others love it? Differences in brain chemistry. Maybe abnormal differences. I know for me, I LOVED the feeling of opiates from Day one. I know poeple that hate that dizzy, fuzzy feeling. I belive they are now finding genetic links to addiction as well. There is so much yet to be known about this field, I think it's too bad that some are so judgemental. (not you)

    As far as calling addiction a disease and having that removing the responsibility. I don't think so. I know that every single addict I know in recovery that calls it a disease, takes full resposibility for their actions, none of them blame their use on the fact of it being a disease. What I have heard is it said "We're not to be blamed for having a disease but to be held accountable and responsible for our recovery"

    One thing I have rarely seen addressed, do we shun those that need heart surgery or a lot of care due to poor dietary choices? I can think of a multitude of diseases caused by those, yet we still look at Htn, diabetes, PVD,CAD, and many more dx's as DISEASE. Yet sometimes those are caused by people's actions as well. Matter of fact, MANY diseases are caused by people's "choices" yet they still get treated with empathy and respect. Addicts have such a long way to go. I know that many a fellow nurse looks at me like dog doo on their shoe.

    Honestly, you don't offend me at all because I have heard much worse and you managed to get your opinion across in a respectful manner. I think that as time goes by, and more and more health professionals are educated and exposed to this, we can change minds and feelings.

    I am already surprised and grateful for some of the wonderful, caring repsonses I have read here in the last several months on this topic and I thank all of you for your input. I one day want to help other nurses like myself and also spread the word about addiction and nurses and recovery!

    Ok, long enough, ack!

    Couldnt have said it any better!!!Very well put Cat and congrats on your recovery. Many a nurse has said "No way, never me." You never know until you end up walking in those shoes. And when the BON's have also ensured you have lost everything before you can even get to the process of bringing yourself back up then hearing co-workers and others sometimes nasty comments. Believe me it cant hurt any worse. These nurses have to go through hoops to get back in the game and redeem thierselveswith every penny of the cost out of thier pocket (with no job in the usual case). They may have put themselves in the situation but its even harder getting support to come back up and out.
  8. by   superchicken4000
    It is sad to steal the drugs of a patient and to make the patient have to suffer only so the nurse can get her high. It is quite obvious that the only reason the patient is taking the medicine is because they are in alot of pain. Not to mention the psycological problems the patient will have to face after leaving the hospital for the wrong doing of the nurse and the neglect they received, ecspecially after you consider the hospital stay alone for 10 days cost almost $70,000. Most patients know when the nurse hasn't been giving them their meds. , but what can they do. File a greivence , but that doesn't help them while they are in the hospital. That only brings more stress after they leave for home and are trying to recover. For $70,000 you would think they would receive good care. But they don't . Only during the day never at night. Why ? because the night shift nurse is stilling their meds. and is to high to do her job properly.
  9. by   anonymurse
    Quote from superchicken4000
    It is sad to steal the drugs of a patient and to make the patient have to suffer only so the nurse can get her high.
    You might want to check out the disease model of addiction.
  10. by   chase4myheart
    Quote from superchicken4000
    It is sad to steal the drugs of a patient and to make the patient have to suffer only so the nurse can get her high. It is quite obvious that the only reason the patient is taking the medicine is because they are in alot of pain. Not to mention the psycological problems the patient will have to face after leaving the hospital for the wrong doing of the nurse and the neglect they received, ecspecially after you consider the hospital stay alone for 10 days cost almost $70,000. Most patients know when the nurse hasn't been giving them their meds. , but what can they do. File a greivence , but that doesn't help them while they are in the hospital. That only brings more stress after they leave for home and are trying to recover. For $70,000 you would think they would receive good care. But they don't . Only during the day never at night. Why ? because the night shift nurse is stilling their meds. and is to high to do her job properly.
    Can you please tell me where it is written that only night shift nurses divert meds? I'd really be interested in knowing where you obtained that information.
  11. by   cathymorgan61704
    Hi. I am new to this site, looking for a forum to discuss nursing and drug addiction. I know too well the dangers of working with an addiction to the very meds you have total access to. I too was fired twice for diverting and am now making a 3rd attempt at recovery. My license is suspended but now at this point getting better is more important to me than anything. I know I can never have that access to the meds again. And you are right when you say you don't think of the consequences or anything else; you can't because your brain is saying I need this now or I will die. And anyone who has experienced w/d knows exactly what I mean. I am still in desperate need of help and am more than willing to listen to anyone who can give me advice. I am in my states monitoring program and going to IOP and AA meetings. My drug of choice was pain meds. I did give my patients good care and never took meds from the patients that were truly in pain and needed them. I know from experience the stigma that is placed on nurses because they are supposed to help people and once labeled a drug addict, many are seen only as a common low-life thief, etc. But this is not the case. It is truly a disease that takes control of the addict at the time and you are not thinking rational at all--it is kind of like a survival mode. But I have had sober time in the past and know it can be for me again. I hope my ramblings are making sense here, but after 2 major relapses, I am still in need of major help and thank you for listening 2 me.

    Cathy
  12. by   Cattitude
    Quote from superchicken4000
    It is sad to steal the drugs of a patient and to make the patient have to suffer only so the nurse can get her high. It is quite obvious that the only reason the patient is taking the medicine is because they are in alot of pain. Not to mention the psycological problems the patient will have to face after leaving the hospital for the wrong doing of the nurse and the neglect they received, ecspecially after you consider the hospital stay alone for 10 days cost almost $70,000. Most patients know when the nurse hasn't been giving them their meds. , but what can they do. File a greivence , but that doesn't help them while they are in the hospital. That only brings more stress after they leave for home and are trying to recover. For $70,000 you would think they would receive good care. But they don't . Only during the day never at night. Why ? because the night shift nurse is stilling their meds. and is to high to do her job properly.
    So, you're a pre-nursing student, you join this wonderful forum and your very FIRST post ever is to hand slap? :smackingf :trout:
    I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt though, I really am and try and educate you a bit. Have you even read through the thread yet? Or just a few posts? It DOES make a difference.

    Most nurse addicts actually do NOT steal their patients meds, it happens but not as often as you'd like to think. And when it does, YES it is sad. It's sad that someone is that sick they would resort to stealing pain meds from someone in pain. Can you imagine how sick someone must be to do that?

    I'm not sure why you think that only night nurses are addicts but let me assure you that addicts are NOT limited to the night shift. It sounds like you may have some personal experience with this. It's unfortunate and hopefully nothing like that will ever happen again. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. Nurses that steal and/or use drugs often do not forgive themselves or take forever to do so.

    Fortunately, I did not take meds from patients. All of my patients received their ordered meds and there was never one single complaint against me. But that does not make me better than the nurse that did steal from a pt. We are both addicts. I can only tell you that in a using state of mind, almost nothing matters. The mind is so sick and overcome with the obsessive thoughts of drugs that you can't think of right and wrong. It just doesn't matter. It IS terribly sad. I feel horrible for the patients that are short changed, I do. But condemning the addicted nurse is not going to help those patients. What will help is a good, solid treatment plan.

    try reading back through the thread if you truly care. One day you may have an addict as your patient. How will you give good care? How will you be compassionate? Can you?
  13. by   Cattitude
    Quote from cathymorgan61704
    I hope my ramblings are making sense here, but after 2 major relapses, I am still in need of major help and thank you for listening 2 me.

    Cathy
    Hi Cathy,

    Welcome to All Nurses! Hopefully you find your way back to this thread, there are several recovering nurses on the forum. We have hoped for our own little area of the forum but to no avail. So we have a thread for now.
    I'm in recovery for opiate addiction, you name it , I've done it (no street drugs). I am not in a state monitoring program yet, they are aware of my status. I am in a nurse recovery program through a hospital that I went in to on my own. I also attend nurse support meetings through my state's nurse's association.
    I also do NA and Al-Anon as well.
    Feel free to PM me!

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