Nurses Who Are Drug Addicts - page 8

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   kate76
    A word from down under. In Australia, nurses who use drugs carry a heavy penalty. Not only loosing their registration, but also facing criminal charges.
    I am an RN with over 10 years experience and I have seen a couple of addicts thru my time.
    Repeating on what has been suggested already. Tell your Unit Manager/Nurse in-charge immediately. However, ensure you have concrete evidence such as physical characteristics like drowsiness, stuppor, weight loss, dialated pupils, or tremor. It may also be worthwile to keep a journal of your interactions with her in the work place as this will provide you with the amunition to support your claims as well as providing evidence should she go to court of law.
    My experiences have involved marajuana use before work and fortunately the impact of the drug use prior to work was sufficient enough for my nurse UM to identify, so my intervention was not required. I wish you good luck.
  2. by   VivaRN
    This is an interesting thread with a lot of angles on this issue. I thank all of you for being so honest about your experiences and feelings as you deal with this illness.

    I have a question, though: to move forward, I agree that we need better support for nurses who have a problem. But looking at it from the other end: how does this happen to begin with? Of course it wasn't your choice to continue abusing, but was it your choice to begin in the first place? How did it start, and why? Was it that you didn't realize how far it would go and what could happen?

    As someone who has never had this experience, I'm trying to understand. Maybe we should talk more about this in nursing school - how would you do prevention?

    Thanks,
    VivaRN
  3. by   pebbles
    Quote from Cattitude

    Your workplace sounds like IT needs work when it comes to supporting recovering nurses. Many others do as well and this is one area that needs a lot of change. Hopefully it will get much better.
    THAT, I very much agree with. Mentally and rationally, I would love to be supportive to nurses coming back to work. But honestly, I can say I never encountered any. So it's hard to say. Maybe I would feel differently.

    The experience I recounted above - where we all knew and it was an "open secret" that we had an impaired nurse at work... I think it was truly a Critical Incident for me. I know at the time we asked our manager when she left if we could have a debriefing with our Critical Incident stress Management team. She said no (of course) because of the nurse's privacy needing to be respected.

    the next time I encountered an impaired nurse, I went home shaking and crying, and could not stop for hours. Having flashbacks to the first one.

    I truly think that management did not effectively deal with a serious problem, and it affected me and frightened me so badly that it's part of my reactions now. I wish things had been different. All the ones I hear about who came back as nurses are not in acute care areas any more.
  4. by   vickynurse
    Quote from Cattitude

    Addiction is a horrible disease an rampant in our profession. I wish that more of us would be supportive when you find out that "Jim" or "Sarah" has a problem. It really can happen to anyone...


    Beez
    It cannot happen to you if you do not take drugs for recreation. This is a choice. This is NOT a rampant problem in our profession.
    Because of a drug addicted dr., I saw a peds pt end up in a veg state. Myself and 3 other nurses ended up in court. I have no use for impaired colleagues.
    Last edit by rn/writer on Jun 17, '07
  5. by   Dalzac
    Quote from vickynurse
    It cannot happen to you if you do not take drugs for recreation. This is a choice. This is NOT a rampant problem in our profession.
    Because of a drug addicted dr., I saw a peds pt end up in a veg state. Myself and 3 other nurses ended up in court. I have no use for impaired colleagues.
    How sad you feel this way. I am retired now but also I have 18 years of recovery and haven't used any drugs or alcohol in that 18 yrs either. I have been working clean longer than not. If you just met me you would have no idea I used. You would have thought I was some nice little old granny nurse. I worked in Critical care and ER the whole time, and yes I even diverted in the first part of my career. People change their lives every day. And the ones I know did it with 12 step programs. I even volunteer with the board of nursing to help other addicted nurses. If I can change then others can too. And since I see hundreds of nurses a year that have addictions It is a far bigger problem than you think. I didn't start out with drugs I started with a huge amount of alcohol but drugs were faster.
    At peer we tell our nurses to watch out for folks with your mind set. I have seen nurses like that They will do anything to get rid of a recovering nurse that includes setting them up.
    Last edit by rn/writer on Jun 17, '07 : Reason: Removed sentence from quote that was removed from original post.
  6. by   Cattitude
    Quote from vickynurse
    It cannot happen to you if you do not take drugs for recreation. This is a choice. This is NOT a rampant problem in our profession.
    Because of a drug addicted dr., I saw a peds pt end up in a veg state. Myself and 3 other nurses ended up in court. I have no use for impaired colleagues.
    Who says every addict took drugs for recreation? Many addicted nurses started out taking meds for pain issues. Was THAT a choice?

    Did you even read this whole thread? The part where I stated about being an addict BEFORE picking up the drug. Can you understand that concept? I was an addict way before using. In recovery, I am learning to change a lot of those behaviors.

    Oh and by the way, it is a bigger problem than you think, don't fool yourself. Not only nurses but Dr's, pharmacists, etc...
  7. by   vickynurse
    Quote from Dalzac
    At peer we tell our nurses to watch out for folks with your mind set. I have seen nurses like that They will do anything to get rid of a recovering nurse that includes setting them up.
    Recovered nurses have nothing to fear from me. I respect anyone who deals with their problems. An impaired collegue cost me 3 years of my life in a nightmare lawsuit and I was not at all liable. Not to mention a 12 year old left in a veg state. If I suspect anyone of using, I will be the first to turn them in ... recovered or not. Pts come first, me second, ..... addicts last. Maybe there are a lot of recovered nurses around and I don't realize it. That is a good thing that the rehab worked. Happy for you. But if I know a recovered nurse and suspect s/he is using, I will not feel sorry for the person and avoid reporting. I don't want that blood on my hands.
  8. by   vickynurse
    Quote from Cattitude
    Who says every addict took drugs for recreation? Many addicted nurses started out taking meds for pain issues. Was THAT a choice?

    Did you even read this whole thread? The part where I stated about being an addict BEFORE picking up the drug. Can you understand that concept? I was an addict way before using. In recovery, I am learning to change a lot of those behaviors.

    Oh and by the way, it is a bigger problem than you think, don't fool yourself. Not only nurses but Dr's, pharmacists, etc...
    What do we teach pts? Have pain --> take a drug. No, we also are supposed to teach and utilize non-pharm methods of pain relief. So why don't we practice what we preach? I had a major pain issue for 3 years and didn't get hooked because of non-pharm methods. The pain never left for 3 long years, but it was tolerable because of my determination to avoid narcs. We all have a choice weather to refill that pain prescription.

    Yes, I understand the theory of addictive personality. but as you indicate, the answer is therapy, not drugs.

    Yes, I know it is a big problem. The stats are easy to find. A physician user drug my good name through the dirt and nearly destroyed my career. That is why I will not tolerate drug use among any of my colleagues. It is not ok
  9. by   Cattitude
    Quote from vickynurse
    What do we teach pts? Have pain --> take a drug. No, we also are supposed to teach and utilize non-pharm methods of pain relief. So why don't we practice what we preach? I had a major pain issue for 3 years and didn't get hooked because of non-pharm methods. The pain never left for 3 long years, but it was tolerable because of my determination to avoid narcs. We all have a choice weather to refill that pain prescription.

    Yes, I understand the theory of addictive personality. but as you indicate, the answer is therapy, not drugs.

    Yes, I know it is a big problem. The stats are easy to find. A physician user drug my good name through the dirt and nearly destroyed my career. That is why I will not tolerate drug use among any of my colleagues. It is not ok
    Because YOU did not become an addict is great. But that's not true for everybody and the bottom line is, there are sisters and brothers in nursing that need our help. Yes, our compassion and not disdain.

    I'm not asking you to tolerate drug use at all. Whatever gave you that idea? What I am asking is that you maybe find it in your heart to believe that a recovering nurse CAN be a safe and healthy nurse. That if a nurse walks on to your unit and you find out she/he has 2 years clean, you won't treat them like garbage. Just give them a chance.
    As you can see by this thread, some have been hurt by addicted nurses. But there are also many of us that ARE clean and in recovery, working among the rest of YOU and doing great!
  10. by   vickynurse
    Quote from Cattitude
    [B]
    What I am asking is that you maybe find it in your heart to believe that a recovering nurse CAN be a safe and healthy nurse. That if a nurse walks on to your unit and you find out she/he has 2 years clean, you won't treat them like garbage. Just give them a chance.
    As you can see by this thread, some have been hurt by addicted nurses. But there are also many of us that ARE clean and in recovery, working among the rest of YOU and doing great!
    Yes, a recovering nurse can be safe and healthy. I'm happy to give everyone a chance. I'm very happy to work with anyone who has passed a drug screen -- recovering or otherwise. IMHO if we know anyone in health care who is using, they should be reported to the appropriate authority. This personal policy protects pts, myself, and my co-workers. Again IMHO, I think we should be mandatory reporters of drug use, just like child abuse.
  11. by   sissiesmama
    Vickynurse - I sense the disgust that is apparent is your postings in this topic, and as some of us addicts asked Tom, what is it in your life that makes you despise us as a whole? ACOA maybe?

    Anyway, that leads me to a whole other question. Not every patient who comes through our door is the "model" patient, just as not every staff member who comes to work at your facility fits the mold of the "perfect" nurse. (And I'm not talking about 5 foot 7, 125 lbs, blond hair, blue eyes, ect.) Do you look at each of your patients who does not fit into the same mold with the same disgust that you show here? Do you treat the patient that cheated on his wife, or the patient that robbed a bank 5 years ago and paid his debt to society and is trying to become a productive member of society with a lower standard of care than the person that would fit into your vision as being the perfect patient?

    If so, then you are really no better than "us."
  12. by   subee
    [QUOTE=vickynurse;2255409]What do we teach pts? Have pain --> take a drug. No, we also are supposed to teach and utilize non-pharm methods of pain relief. So why don't we practice what we preach? I had a major pain issue for 3 years and didn't get hooked because of non-pharm methods. The pain never left for 3 long years, but it was tolerable because of my determination to avoid narcs. We all have a choice weather to refill that pain prescription.

    Yes, I understand the theory of addictive personality. but as you indicate, the answer is therapy, not drugs.

    Yes, I know it is a big problem. The stats are easy to find. A physician user drug my good name through the dirt and nearly destroyed my career. That is why I will not tolerate drug use among any of my colleagues. It is not ok[/QUOTE

    Vickinurse: Please get some therapy to deal with this horrible situation you were in. Getting sued is emotionally traumatic and you are carrying around a lot of residual anger that is interfering with your rationality. Get educated about drug addiction. Its not a disease of the forebrain - its a disease of the midbrain putting it out of the realm of choice. PET scans document differences between the brain genetically wired for addition and the differences in brain plasticity after the insult of addiction. If we accept an addiciton rate of 10% in the general public, then we can infer a 10% rate among nurses, pharmacists, social workers and doctors. Being pissed off and punitive isn't going to make them go away, nor does it help in any shape or form to identify them early, get them help and get them away from the patients. But please, for you own sake, get some help. No one asked you to tolerate drug use among your colleagues. The anger is dripping through your posts. Don't waste your time with this self-destructive behavior.
  13. by   vickynurse
    [Vickinurse: Please get some therapy to deal with this horrible situation you were in. Getting sued is emotionally traumatic and you are carrying around a lot of residual anger that is interfering with your rationality. ........... Don't waste your time with this self-destructive behavior.[/QUOTE]

    Suebee: I think the person doing the drugs is the irrational and self destructive person. What I think I'm hearing from you is that I'm supposed to say, 'this poor nurse has a midbrain problem, and is putting pts at risk, but I should feel sorry for him/her.' Then what? Do I wait for them to admit the problem and remove themselves from pts, or do I act to protect the pt by reporting the nurse?
    Don't know about you, but I don't want an addict caring for someone I love. Sober and recovering is fine... active user has no business working in nursing. THAT is what the BON says. THAT is what the public expects. If we cannot police our own the trial lawyers will.

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