Substance Abuse Among Nurses

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Over the years, substance abuse in the United States has become a persistent issue affecting many individuals. In 2008, it was estimated that 17.8 million Americans over the age of 18 where substance dependent (Epstein, Burns, & Conlon, 2010). Many of these individuals being affected are nurses. Ponech (2000) stated that "approximately 10% of the nursing population has alcohol or drug abuse problems, and 6% has problems serious enough to interfere with their ability to practice" (as cited in Talbert, 2009, p.17). Studies show that nurses have a 50% higher rate of substance abuse compared to the rest of the public (Epstein et al., 2010). Among the many factors that contribute to the nurse’s issue of substance abuse, accessibility to drugs in the work environment has played a significant role. Substance abuse among nurses is an arising issue in need of attention, it is alarming to know that patient safety and care is in danger when a chemically impaired nurse is in the workplace.


Nurses are the ones whom trust is placed to care for the sick, but with the growing population of chemically impaired nurses, patient care is in danger. Factors that are contributing to substance abuse among nurses need to be further explored to combat the issue and provide better quality care for patients.


There are several contributing factors to substance abuse among nurses such as family, and stress. Nurses who have family members with emotional problems and inability to cope, alcoholism, and drug use, have been linked to a higher risk of substance abuse (Talbert, 2009). Coming from a family that relies on substances tempts the nurse to be chemically dependent when experiencing high job demands. "Stress in the workpl...

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Substance abuse in the field of nursing has become a serious problem. Every day exposure to drugs in addition to other factors have contributed to the issue of substance abuse among nurses and the impact on patient care. Some may still be unaware of the substance abuse problem nurses struggle with, and they don't realize until they see the consequences on overall patient outcomes and work productivity. Learning to recognize the chemically impaired nurse has allowed the health care field to expand its awareness and begin to take action on this issue. “To ensure productivity, safety, and quality of care, most hospitals have instituted drug-free workplace programs...that identify prohibited behaviors and the consequences of violating the policy” (Epstein et al., 2010, p. 515). In hope of change to this issue, further action continues to be a work in progress.
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