“5 Terrifying Things I Learned as a Drug-Addicted Nurse” – Did you read it?

addicted nurse

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Nurses are consistently voted the most trusted profession in America, and with good reason–you’re on the front lines of healthcare, caring for those who need it most with skill and compassion. But the media doesn’t always portray nurses as trustworthy; shows like Nurse Jackie and Scrubbing In often portray nurses as drug-addicted partiers, not the skilled professionals you really are.

We recently read the sobering article “5 Terrifying Things I Learned as a Drug-Addicted Nurse” on Cracked.com, and knew you would have a lot to say about it and its ramifications for the public’s perception of nurses.

Here are some excerpts from the article:
I was a registered nurse for two years, and during that time, I was a hopeless drug addict who not only stole drugs from the hospital, but frequently used them during my shifts. And I’m not alone: RNs abuse drugs at roughly twice the rate of everybody else in the country — as many as 1 in 5 may be addicts, according to studies.

How is this possible? Well …

#5. There’s Nothing to Stop You from Stealing Drugs and Needles

It might seem crazy that nurses would have a high rate of addiction, considering that we’re more knowledgeable about the horrible effects of drugs than the average person. But that’s the problem: We’re too close to drugs. We have access to all the clean paraphernalia that you could ever need, and we’re not worried about overdosing on some dirty batch of brown sugar heroin. These aren’t street drugs — they’re FDA-approved pharmaceuticals. 

That’s how I rationalized my addiction for a long time: “I’m not an addict because I know everything there is to know about this drug, and I still take showers and go to work.” Of course, just because professional drug addiction doesn’t look the same as under-the-bridge drug addiction, it will still end up taking a big shit on your life … or someone else’s.

My drug of choice was Dilaudid, an opioid analgesic typically given to patients who are allergic to morphine (it also happens to be 7 to 10 times stronger than morphine). At the hospital, we stored it in 2-milligram vials, but since physicians almost never ordered that strong a dose, it was really easy for me to administer a portion of the vial and pocket the rest. How is that possible, when every day kids are yanked off the street for having a single rock of crack cocaine in their pocket?

Well, when you dispose of leftover narcotics, you’re supposed to find another RN to “witness the waste,” meaning you squirt it into a hazardous material bin while they watch. But if you’ve ever been to a hospital, you probably have some idea of how much people care about watching their co-worker throw something away: Nurses have roughly 50 million places to be at any given second, and about half those things involve saving someone’s life, so any unexpected, tedious task is going to be rushed through as quickly as possible. Most of the time, someone would quickly punch their code into the machine indicating that they’d witnessed the waste without actually watching me do anything, then rush off to their next task. Not because they were irresponsible (although that’s difficult to dispute) — they just assumed I was trustworthy.

Read the rest of the article here, and then tell us: Do you see drug abuse happening in your workplace? What can hospitals and nurses do to combat this serious problem? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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7 Responses to “5 Terrifying Things I Learned as a Drug-Addicted Nurse” – Did you read it?

  1. GratefulRN

    Drug addiction affects 10% of the population, including nurses and other health care providers. And yet there is so little education and understanding as to how it happens, how to recognize it and how to help. I regretfully stole from my employer in my attempt to numb my pain and shame, thus setting up a four year battle with obsession and compulsion. While I did not use at work or let any patients go without, I clearly should not have been there. Getting caught saved my life, and I am grateful every day for that fateful moment. I have now been in recovery for longer than I was using. And while my management did not give me a second chance, my colleagues, the law and my governing body continue to believe in me and provide an atmosphere conducive to improved physical and psychological health. My new employer is fully aware of my history and is supportive of my recovery. I share my story openly so as to help others who are suffering in silence. Just as we show compassion and empathy towards our patients, so too must we do this for our afflicted brothers and sisters in nursing. Addiction is not a moral issue. It is a proven physiological brain disease that often affects the best and the brightest. Good people, bad disease.

  2. Yvonne Ivy

    For starters, the rules have to be re-vamped. If ppl self-report and seek help they should be able to keep their career. I think it is shameful to treat a disease like it is a character flaw. Numbers of addicts are going up, death from addiction is going up, more laws to make it more illegal are not helping. People make mistakes and if you make a mistake and discover through that mistake that you have a disease you should at least be able to seek help without risking your life and existence. I am also going to school to get my drug counseling certificate so I can do my part to help.

  3. GratefulRN

    A correction to my first posting – Addiction affects 10% of the population (not specifically drug addiction.) Please correct.

  4. Chuck Allison

    Scary story…….there was a case in an earlier place of work…..nurse and cna bypassing meds. Law came down on them like the wrath of god! I found another place to work

  5. theplumberswife

    Working third shift, as a CNA in a LTC facility, I witnessed a veteran RN swap Tylenol for roxycodone and other narcotics intended for a hip replacement patients and even a cancer patient. I continued to watch her thru out the med pass only to confirm what I thought I saw I was correct. She did the same thing….drop the narcotics in her pocket and put Tylenol in the cups. I dont know if she was taking them to get high or sale. Whatever the reason it disturbs me greatly and I wonder what I should do? At this facility CNAs are expendable and nurses-especially RNs are held is highest regards. I need my job and fear retaliation. Any suggestions?

    • cthomeee01

      You absolutely need to report this person. I had a nurse do a similar thing at at the nursing home I worked at.. I set her up and caught her red handed in the act, called the DON and the director of the nursing home and they had her fired the next day.

  6. NurseAbbers

    Wow. In 6 years on the wards I’ve only heard of one case of Nurses taking controlled Meds from the cupboard. In the UK controlled drugs are strictly controlled by the nurse in charge of the shift. The one case I know of not only got reported to the Senior Nurse straight away, but referred to the NMC and her career was over. I marveled at Nurse Jackie as I don’t think its possible to take meds like that in the NHS.