Nurse addict? - page 3

My wife is an RN and recently I've become more concerned about certain things I've found around our house. I'm not in the medical profession but thought maybe someone in this forum could offer me... Read More

  1. by   TracyB,RN
    Please, please,please. Confront her, ASAP. She has a problem & needs help. A family friend of ours was an RN, also working nights. Started out the same way, couldn't sleep, stressed out, got fired from MANY jobs for stealing narcotics. It has been one year since her children found her dead on the bathroom floor. She OD'd. When we went to the house to clean up & pack things away, we couldn't believe all the signs that we had previously missed. Syringes, empty med vials. Confront her & do it soon.
    Anonymously call your state board of nursing to get info about nurse recovery programs in your state. My prayers are with you. And thank you, for loving her enough to want to help.
  2. by   P_RN
    Banker read it here. Then act ASAP. Please don't wait for a disaster.

    Narcotics are covered by FEDERAL LAW that mandates the waste be witnessed and documented.
  3. by   Sylvia
    I work in Florida and in nursing homes, at least, two nurses have to sign that a narcotic has been wasted. They don't have to be RN's (they can be LPN's) but two licensed nurses must sign.

    As I'm sure you've already figured out from the other posters to this board, it is NOT your imagination. Your wife needs help. I wish the very best to both of you. Addicted nurses are a big problem in the field and the problem is much more widespread than many people would suspect.

  4. by   fiestynurse
    Get her off night shifts!! This addiction probably started because of her desperate need for sleep. Many nurses can not handle night shifts. Plus, nurses have more opportunity to divert meds on the night shift because there are less staff around to observe them. She should not be working nights!
  5. by   JennieBSN

    Yes, it is law in all 50 states that there must be a witness to narcotic waste. Your wife is either falsifying the amount of narcotic/sedative given so that she can keep the 'extra' for herself, or she has an accomplice who is also an addict. It's one of the two.

    Judging by her drugs of choice, her primary problem is coping with stress. She probably has used some sort of agent (alcohol, illegal narcotics) most of her adult life to cope, as this is a learned behavior, and her use seems to have greatly accelerated since starting her nursing career. The others give good advice. Call alanon, call the state board, then take her to a rehab center. Be prepared for her to hate you for a while and say horrible things to you. Do not let her sway you. You are doing the right thing.

    My cousin did coke for a number of years before he was 'caught,' (I use quotes because his use was OBVIOUS, his parents were simply in denial), and they sent him to the drug rehab program 'Straight.' You may have heard of it. It is very good, and he has been clean for 14 years now. Whatever you do to take care of your wife, take care of yourself as well. Get involved with a support group, as well as a private therapist.

    God bless. Let us know what happens.
  6. by   WriteStuff
    This reply is for Banker321, regarding his original post about his wife, an RN, new in the profession, and his finding "suspicious" drugs, etc. in the home - obviously brought there by her from her work place.
    I have read all of the excellent replys thus far and see that you have received valid advice, good information, and ongoing support. I want to build upon the comments already made, and hope it will help you with what you are currently facing.

    My name is Bonnie Creighton. I'm an RN, with thirty years of experience in Nursing - acute care setting, and am now 57 years old. On August 8th of this year I celebrated six years clean and sober after living for 28 years in the vice-grip of the disease of addiction. For twenty-five of those years my DOC (drug of choice was alcohol). I was not a "daily drunk", I am an episodic - binge drinker and my drinking pattern was such that I "reserved" my days off, weekends off, for the time when I did my heaviest drinking........without fail!! Addiction is a disease in every respect, and as is true with any untreated disease, it progressed rapidly is the later stages (the last five years of my disease), and it was during that time that I crossed the "line" I told myself I would NEVER cross as a medical professional. It was at that point in time the alcohol stopped doing for me what I needed it to do (change the way I felt), and because my thinking was so sick and twisted by that time I convinced myself it was "ok to 'try' these narcotics I had given to patients for decades, for in so doing, I could "teach" them about their effects. "

    One evening while on duty a patient of mine requested his Demerol injection for pain. I prepared it, took it to his room, at which time he said: "I've changed my mind. I'd like to try the Vicodin (a narcotic pill form) first instead, then if that doesn't work, I'll take the shot." I said, "Oh, that's ok, I'll go get you the Vicodin." In that instant, without a second thought, I pocketed the Demerol, still in the carpujet, went back to the med room and got him his Vicodin. On that walk back to the med room, my sick thinking said to me: "Now is your chance. Keep the Demerol. Take it home and use it in the privacy of your own home. You "need" to know how it "feels." The Vicodin I gave to my patient "worked" because he never requested the shot later, even though I had signed it out as having been given to him. I "covered" my tracks of documentation by entering a false time (much later in my shift) for having given him the Vicodin. When I got home after that shift, I injected the Demerol that I had "conveniently" left in the carpujet , stashed in one of the deep pockets of my lab coat which was always a part of my uniform dress. It was with that first injection of Demerol that I began a journey down the crucible path of addictiion to narcotics in my work setting. My disease of addiction was in high gear!! Incredibly, I diverted narcotics from my work setting for three more years, and drank very little, because "who needs alcohol, when you have narcotics?"

    As is true with the disease of addiction - the more you use, the more you need. Your body builds up a tolerance over time which makes this necessary. During those three years I became the "master manipulater" of stealing and diverting drugs. I was such an "expert" it took three years to "get caught." I say that not because I am "proud" in any way whatsoever of what I did, I say that to point out the cunning, baffling and powerful influence of this disease on the mind, on the emotions, on the behavior of the person so victimized.

    At the end of my active addiction I was suicidal, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually bankrupt. My "motive" for even going to work at that stage was solely to put myself in contact with the drugs I needed so desperately. I "used" to live, and lived to "use." I was working 12-hr. night shifts (7pm-7am), which afforded me the isolation I needed from scrutinizing peers, departmental heads, and an excess of anciillary staff. I was working full-time on an Oncology Unit, where narcotics were "free" and abundant for the "taking." I was one of the most respected Nurses on the Unit and only a few months before had been voted "Nurse of the Month" by all of my peers, in this 500-bed metropolitan hospital, well known nationwide, even worldwide. For a long time, I "looked good" on the outside, while I was dieing on the inside.

    My dirty little secret was kept well-hidden by me on the home front. My husband and two children were absolutely clueless. They were gone during the day, even before I arrived home from work, so I could "shoot up" in the peace and comfort of my own home, and drift off to sleep in my narcotic stupers. Which, by the time they all arrived home, I had slept off sufficiently and would awaken in anticipation of "getting more" when I started my next shift. My husband's occasional comments of: "You sure are in a good mood all of a sudden," or, "you sure are sleeping more than usual," were always easily brushed off by some slick lie I could concoct and deliver with Oscar-winning talent.

    It was not until I had reached the place where ending my own life was far more attractive a "deal" than living in the mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain I felt, that my employer pulled off an intervention on my behalf that not only saved my life, but GAVE me a whole new life.

    Addiction is a very complex, multi-faceted disease for which ironically, there is no "quick fix." It is FAR MORE than being "addicted to chemicals." Addiction is a disease of "disconnect." In reality, the dependence on the chemicals is the least of the problem. The disease of addiction is one of twisted thinking, poorly developed skills for "doing life", inability to bond with other human beings (for whatever reason), an inability to be honest with one-self, perpetual efforts to escape from the painful emotions that come with living in a human body, and being bound up in a system of denial that masks as "survival."

    To you banker...........all of the "red flags" flying inside your home MUST NOT be "ignored", minimized, or discounted in any way whatsoever. Yes, there is a PROBLEM. For you to choose to make "assumptions" and draw your own conclusions, or try to "read her mind" at this stage is dangerous in every respect. DO NOT believe a word she says for "explaining" your findings. She is sending you "clues" and the little you are finding may be only the tip of the iceberg of what is really going on for her.

    I know nothing about your marriage, your relationship with her, but whether you love her or not, she is in the grips of a disease that will destroy her, and your life together, if it is not intercepted NOW.

    You have only two choices. To intercede on her behalf, or ignore it all. My advice to you is to first seek expert help, and advice from an outside source, without her knowledge. If you are networked in such a way that you know of, or know people who know of specialists in the field of addiction, go there immediately. Your family physician may be able to refer you to someone. DO NOT depend on the hope or likelihood that your private physician comprehends the disease of addiction.......the medical profession , although it continues to make good progress, is inherently, in collective denial about this very subject.

    If you care to e-mail me privately with questions or concerns, I would be happy to be of help in any way I can.

    Bonnie Creighton,RN, MHCA
    Mental Health Consumer Advocate
  7. by   JennieBSN
    Bonnie, I commend you. You've got guts to relay such a personal and moving story to a total stranger. Congrats on being clean for so long. I hope he listens to you. Your story is very powerful. Thanks for sharing it!
  8. by   mustangsheba
    Sounds as if your wife is medicating herself so she can sleep. She needs to get a different shift. I agree with other posters that she has left enough clues around to indicate she wants to be caught. I also agree that if questioned, she will deny using. I have put syringes with medication in my pocket if the dose is, for example, "MS 2-4mg. q3h" and I start out with 2mg. I have never taken one home, however. (I am like Misti - I would be the one to pull it out of my pocket in the parking lot.) There is no question that she is using. If she is caught diverting drugs (which will happen if she continues), she could lose her license. If she seeks help immediately, she can avoid losing her career and her dignity. I wish you the best. Keep in touch.
  9. by   Doey
    First of all congratulations to you!!!! I'm sure it has been a long and difficult journey to get where you are today.
    Secondly, I echo what kday said. It takes a lot of courage to share an experience as yours and to reach out to try and help someone else. Your post was very moving and has given me greater insight into the world of addiction. We've all read about or learned something about addiction in nursing (albeit nearly not enough or half adequate) but to read about it from someone who has experienced it makes a much greater impact. Once again, congratulations!!!!!!
  10. by   nicola
    First, I, too, take my hat off to you, Bonnie, for not only overcoming your addiction but for having the courage to come out on the BB. I"m sure that your words are encouraging to more than just Banker!

    Banker, I've worked in community health in various capacities for the past 11 years and have seen lots of people in the throes of addiction. The previous posters are absolutly correct in saying that your wife has a problem and that you, because you love her and are her husband, are affected by that problem. As you work thru this, please find a support group for yourself. Whenever a family member has an illness, every one suffers. Be assured of our prayers and healing thoughts!
  11. by   fiestynurse
    Bonnie, your story was very moving. It gives me hope, that people can be helped and can recover. You obviously retained your RN license and went on to get your Masters degree. I bet you are a great inspiration to many patients, because you have been there and can empathize with their anguish.
    I have a story to tell about an addicted nurse, who was not so fortunate. She was really a wonderful nurse and person. I use to pick her up in the morning and we would ride to work together. She had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed our talks. I knew that she was having problems with her marriage and she would often talk about her mother, who died when this nurse was 18 from alcoholism. I offered her as much support as I could, but I began to realize that she probably needed professional help. She began borrowing money from me. She would always pay it back, but I began to wonder why she was having money problems. She also started acting funny at work. One time she accidently threw a clip board on the bed of a patient and hit her in the stomach and another time she raced into a patient room, slamming the door on a patient's finger. She was a heavy smoker and at social gatherings she seemed to drink more than the rest of us. One time, during a Christmas party, I entered the bathroom to find her downing shots of Tequila. At another party she was found drunk in the closet, making out with a visiting doctor. (his wife was downstairs, but that's another story) I was very concerned for this nurse. I felt that she was becoming more self destructive. I expressed my concerns to various nurses on the floor and to the Director, but everyone seemed to be in denial. They would tell me that she was a good nurse and what she does on her personal time is really none of our business.
    Then, one day she was caught by another nurse stealing money out of a patient's purse, while she was in surgery. I was in charge that day and it broke my heart to have to report this to the Director. At the same time I felt that it was the best opportunity for her to be confronted about her disease and to get help. However, the hospital just ended-up firing her. No charges were ever brought against her, her behavior was never reported to the board of nursing, and she was never offered treatment. She ended-up working at the hospital across town, where her addiction progressed.
    One night, she turn on the gas stove, lit a match and blew her self up. When the paramedics arrived, she repeated over and over "I just want to die, please let me die." She died the next day from her extensive burns.
    At her funeral, her son got up to do the eulogy. He angrily talked about the denial of everyone, regarding his mother's addiction. It was so painful, to listen to. I wish that I would have done more to help her. I think about her often.
  12. by   banker321
    Thank you again, everyone for your wonderful, thoughtful advice; especially Bonnie, your story gave me a lot to think about.

    I spoke to my wife about what I found and my concerns regarding it. I tried not to be confrontational or judgmental (well at least as much as I was able to). She vehemently denied that she was using the drugs I had found. In fact, she was both horrified and amused by what I said. Horrified that I would think that about her and amused because she thought is was all so far-fetched.

    As I mentioned in earlier post, she's a new RN that works the 8pm-8am shift in the cardiac critical care unit of a major metropolitan hospital in New York State. Her patients are so critical that she never is responsible for more than 1 or 2 people per shift. At least half of the patients on her unit die.

    She told me that RN's on her unit/shift accidentally take home drugs such as morphine and lorazepam quite often and some of the nurses actually joke about it. She admitted that hospital rules require a nurse witness when disposing of drugs deemed
    "waste"; however she said that rarely happens on her unit, the reason being that things are so crazy (ie. patients "coding" frequently) that you can't pull a nurse away to witness a "waste" when there is someone dying in the next bed (They are understaffed, ala the nursing shortage). Basically she said that in the culture of the hospital in which she works taking home these drugs by accident is not considered a big deal.

    As for her explanation regarding the lorazepam in her sock draw she said she just put it there without thinking (hmm...). She reminded me that it's been there for at least two months, unused. This is true. I also remember reading somewhere on the internet that lorazepam is no good after a few weeks if not refrigerated. I also remember reading that lorazepam is a favorite choice of drug diverting nurses. So of course I'm confused....yet again.

    Well to rap this post up....I confronted her, she denied it and we are stuck at that point. I'm not sure what to do at this point. Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. By the way, after our discussion she threw everything I found in the garbage. I wonder why she didn't do this initially.
  13. by   tiger
    that is the thing that bothers me banker. why didn't she do it initially???? is she just throwing it away to divert your suspicions? if i found anymore hidden stuff i would measure/count it exactly and monitor without her knowing and then cofront her if the initial amount decreases. i'm sur though if she is actually using them they will not be as easy to find next time. good luck.