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What Are Some Warning Signs of Substance Abuse Among Nurses?

What Are Some Warning Signs of Substance Abuse Among Nurses?

Nurses have a difficult job, with long hours, little work-life balance, quick breaks, and high demands. Although nurses are typically viewed as not having many problems (after all, they’re there to help!), it’s true that substance abuse does not discriminate. Anyone can be affected, and nurses are very susceptible to problems such as these because they have little time and energy to focus on their own mental health and wellbeing. Substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs can quickly become a way of living, whether for stress relief, long-lasting energy, or simply to help unwanted thoughts and feelings fade away. While this form of coping may seem to work in the meantime, it can make a person’s quality of life worse, because it adds additional problems (such as with money, hiding the substance abuse, difficulties with relationships, and more).

A 2015 study published in the journal Substance Abuse sought to explore the workplace warning signs of nurses with substance abuse. Anonymous surveys were distributed, and a total of 302 nurses responded. Questions were asked about drug use or alcohol at work, behavioral cues that could indicate early signs of substance abuse, perceptions to barriers in seeking help, and strategies for preventing problems to seeking help. Overall, researchers found the following:

  • 48% of nurses reported using drugs or alcohol at work
  • 40% of nurses felt that their competency on the job was affected by their substance use
  • More than two-thirds of respondents stated that their substance use problem could have been recognized earlier
  • Barriers to seeking help included fear and embarrassment in terms of losing one’s nursing license
  • As a prevention strategy, nurses recommended providing risk information in one’s professional training

Did these statistics surprise you? The American Nursing Association (ANA) emphasizes that nurses are highly susceptible to substance abuse due to the ease of access to drugs, the high stress that is experienced with working long hours and caring for sick patients, the little recovery time available, and the emotional strain that comes with helping others. If you’ve been struggling with substance use, begin your journey to recovery today by speaking with someone from a reputable treatment center.

If you haven’t already, speak with someone from a professional treatment center to learn more about programs to best suit your needs. Optimal recovery is possible, and you are not alone in your pursuit for happiness, health, and wellbeing.

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