The Prevalence of Addiction Among Emergency Department Nurses

Multiple studies have been conducted on drug addiction among professionals. This is not an uncommon occurrence. In fact, 70 percent of Americans who use illegal drugs are employed. It’s not surprising that some of these professionals are employed in the healthcare industry, especially because such professions are surrounded by medications and prescription drugs on a daily basis.

One study published in the American Journal of Nursing titled “Addiction: An Occupational Hazard in Nursing” found that nurses in certain specialty areas are at even higher risk for drug abuse compared to other nurses. Specifically, the study found that emergency department (ED) nurses were 3.5 times as likely to use cocaine or marijuana as nurses in other specialties.

But why? The study also found that nurses have reported a higher rate of family history of alcoholism compared to other types of healthcare professionals. Additionally, many ED nurses enjoy the “rush” of adrenaline they get while working in such a fast-paced, spontaneous environment. This could be an early risk indicator of sensation-seeking behavior like drug abuse.

Other work-related factors that may be associated with nurses’ use and abuse of drugs or alcohol include:

  • Work-related stress
  • Easy access to drugs
  • Working a night shift or rotating shifts
  • Critical care work
  • Excessive overtime
  • Musculoskeletal injuries and pain
  • Knowledge of medications

Many nurses fear the punishment associated with abusing drugs while working, however the study indicates that 40 states have alternatives to disciplinary action. These alternatives include peer assistance and recovery monitoring programs. In addition, healthcare professionals who participate in assistance programs have a higher rate of long-term recovery than other addicted people.

Talbott Recovery offers a professionals program for individuals in professional occupations who may be dealing with drug abuse problems. Contact us today for more information about this program.

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