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Drug Addiction among Nurses

The United States of America has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Some of the local hospitals such as Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins Hospital are ranked among the top hospitals globally (Hiremath, 2015). People fly from all over the world to get specialized medication in the country. It is a sign of the commitment from various stakeholders in ensuring that the healthcare system in the country is maintained.

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Despite the impressive image that the healthcare system in the country has, drug abuse among nurses is a serious problem that threatens the quality care that is offered. Nurses are some of the most important players in any medical facility. Given that they always interact with patients and their loved ones more often than any other medical team, their actions, demeanor, decisions, and attitude matters a lot. It is unfortunate that drug addiction is becoming a major problem among nurses. The study seeks to determine the prevalence of this problem and what can be done to address it.

Literature Review

Drug addiction among nurses is not something unique problem because it has been in existence for several years. It has attracted the attention of many scholars who are interested in investigating reasons behind the increasing incidences of drug abuse among nurses in the United States. In this section of the paper, the researcher will look at the findings made by various scholars who have investigated this problem.

Understanding the Drug Addiction Problem among Nurses

Drug abuse in the United States is one of the common social problems that the government has been trying to deal with for the past several decades. Billings and Halstead (2016) define drug addiction as a state of mind characterized by compulsive seeking and use of drugs despite the known harmful consequences. It is a situation where one has no control of their mind as to avoid the use of drugs.

It occurs when one uses drugs for some time, and the body system gets used to it to the extent that it is difficult to manage the desire. The mind gets to rely on drugs to function, although it is impaired soon after taking it. Drug addiction among nurses is a serious problem, more so when they report to work after using drugs. Others even use the drugs after reporting to work, making it difficult for them to undertake their duties properly.

After taking drugs, some nurses may act irrationally. It becomes difficult to predict their actions as they become erratic in decision-making processes. Nurses who are intoxicated tend to make mistakes on drug administration, monitoring and reporting patients’ condition, and staying focused on their work. The relationship between them and the patients may deteriorate depending on their actions. They may also fail to embrace team-spirit that would enable them to work closely with other nurses, doctors, or other clinical officers.

The Affected Group

Drug abuse among nurses affects a wide range of people. According to Morin, Fastbom, and Laroche, (2015), patients are the most affected group of people when they are handled by nurses who are regular abusers of drugs. Patients often entrust their health to the medical team once they come to the hospital. Most of them do not understand the relevance and significance of the drugs they are given.

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They believe that a medical team is a professional unit with officers who know what to do to help them overcome their medical problem. However, when it turns out that the nurses they trust with their health are mentally impaired because of drug abuse then it is possible that they may face dire consequences. Many patients have lost their lives because of the mistakes committed by the medical team. Others sustain lifelong injuries because of such errors. Nurses are also affected by misjudgments committed by their colleagues if they become mentally impaired because of drug abuse. They have to share the blame for the faults of such nurses. Others are forced to spend long hours correcting such mistakes.


The review of the literature reveals that the problem of drug addiction is posing a serious threat to the quality of service offered in the local healthcare institutions. The United States has a reputation for its quality health that it offers, but that may not be the case in the future if the current problem of substance abuse among nurses is not addressed. Studies suggest that the problem is increasing in intensity and measures need to be taken to tackle it as soon as possible. According to Wilkes (2018), drug abuse is an undesirable habit that many people often try to avoid because of the known consequences. However, some find themselves doing drugs and overcoming it becomes a major issue. The likelihood of a nurse becoming an addict depends on different factors.

The Prevalence of the Problem in the United States

The problem of hard drug abuse among nurses is relatively less common than that of subscription drug abuse in the United States according to the existing studies (Kantor, Rehm, Haas, Chan, & Giovannucci, 2015). However, Billings and Halstead (2016) warn that this may be so because many of them go undetected or are not reported. Most of the drug and alcohol users can do their work properly without being detected by the relevant administrative authorities in the institutions where they serve. It means that the problem may be more prevalent than what is often reported in the existing studies.

Nurses who are working in highly stressing environments such as the oncology departments and surgical rooms are likely to become abusers of drugs or alcohol (Skidmore-Roth, 2015). They start using these drugs as a means to manage their stress. However, they soon slip into addiction and find it difficult to overcome the behavior. Roux (2017) note that there are no clear statistics as to the number of nurses abusing hard drugs when at work.

The number of nurses abusing prescription drugs is alarmingly high in the country, as opposed to those using hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin. In a report by Townsend and Morgan (2017), about 78% of nurses have abused prescription drugs in one way or the other. The number is increasing at a rate of 28% every year. The most common of them is the painkillers. Most of them cite stresses at work, long working hours, and ease of accessing the drugs as the main reasons why they abuse drugs.

Managing Drug Addiction among Nurses

It is critical to ensure that drug addiction among nurses is addressed as soon as possible. Townsend and Morgan (2017) argue that nurses’ perception towards drug abuse and addiction is critical in solving this problem. These nurses must understand that they are in the best position to address this problem because the often start abusing these drugs willingly. Their perception must change towards drugs.

They must know how to handle the challenges at work. Whenever necessary, they can visit specialists such as psychiatrists to help them deal with the problem of addiction. The hospital administrations also need to develop a drug-testing program for their nurses to determine if they are abusing drugs. The policy-makers at both national and state levels must also come up with punitive measures for nurses who report to work when drunk. The habit needs to be discouraged.

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Nurses play a critical role in the institutions of healthcare where they work on a daily basis. They are responsible for administering drugs, monitoring the condition of their patients, making necessary reports to the doctors, and helping their patients both emotionally and physically. This noble profession is under attack by the emerging problem of drug addiction. Some nurses have become addicted to prescription drugs while others have become regular users of hard drugs. It is important to address this problem to restore public faith in hospitals.


Billings, M., & Halstead, J. (2016). Teaching in nursing: A guide for faculty. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Daneman, N., Bronskill, S., Gruneir, A., Newman, A., Fischer, H., Rochon, P.,… Anderson, G. (2015). Variability in antibiotic use across nursing homes and the risk of antibiotic-related adverse outcomes for individual residents. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 175(8), 1331-1339. Web.

Hiremath, P. (2015). Alcohol addiction among nurses. Journal of Community & Public Health Nursing, 1(1), 1-2. Web.

Kantor, E., Rehm, C., Haas, J., Chan, A., & Giovannucci, E. (2015). Trends in prescription drug use among adults in the United States from 1999-2012. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 314(17), 1818-1831. Web.

Morin, L., Fastbom, J., & Laroche, M. (2015). Potentially inappropriate drug use in older people: A nationwide comparison of different explicit criteria for population-based estimates. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 80(2), 315-324.

Roux, G. (2017). Issues and trends in nursing: Practice, policy and leadership. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Skidmore-Roth, L. (2015). Mosby’s drug guide for nursing students. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

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Talbert, J. (2018). Substance abuse among nurses. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 13(1), 17-19. Web.

Townsend, M., & Morgan, K. (2017). Psychiatric mental health nursing: Concepts of care in evidence-based practice (9th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

Wilkes, G. (2018). 2018 oncology nursing drug handbook. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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