Help with drug addictions for nurses, doctors and medical professionals

Drug addiction is an equal opportunity disease and affects all types of medical professionals. Written by a medical professional in recovery, these 5 tips for doctors, nurses, pharmacists or other professionals can offer you help with drug addictions here.

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Stress increases risk factors for drug addiction

Drug addiction afflicts hundreds of thousands of people annually in the U.S. Addiction is not picky. It does not care if you are rich or poor, old or young. Likewise, health care professionals are not immune to this disease. In fact, many think that a health care professional is actually at greater risk of developing a drug addiction. Job stress and access to the medications are factors that put a health care professional at greater risk of developing a drug addiction.

5 tips for medical professionals diagnosed with drug addiction

When a health care professional finds themselves in the grasp of an addiction, the treatment they require is somewhat different. Here are 5 tips that are essential for successful addiction recovery for a health care professional.

1. Find someone you can trust and confide in them about possible addiction.

One of the hardest things for a health care professional to do is admit they have an addiction. It is taboo for them and it is very hard for them to admit that they need help. We are trained to care for others and sometimes forget that we also need cared for. It is essential to find someone – a friend, co-worker, family member – that you can open up to about your addiction. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

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2. Contact your state’s professionals assistance program.

Most states have an assistance program specifically for health care professionals with an addiction. These programs are there to not only help the health care professional, but also to protect the public. These programs are anonymous. One example of a program for nurses is ISNAP. It stands for Indiana State Nurses Assistance Program. It is a structured program that monitors a nurse for up to 3 years. I personally owe my recovery to a program like this one. I needed structure and guidance for my recovery and these programs give you that.

3. Locate an inpatient treatment facility that specializes in healthcare workers.

If you need to go to an inpatient treatment facility, make sure that it is one that specializes in the treatment of healthcare workers. These treatment facilities recognize that a healthcare worker needs a longer and more focused treatment. A nurse that goes into treatment needs a minimum of 60 days of treatment. The reason is that healthcare workers are surrounded by these medications every day and if they chose to go back to work in that setting, it is imperative that they have a strong recovery foundation. If they do not have that, then the chance of relapse is very high. One example of a treatment facility that specializes in healthcare workers is Resurrection Behavioral Health in Chicago, Illinois.

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4. Find a support group

Most health care professionals can find a support group for their specialty. For example, there are many nurse support groups. These groups are structured so that everyone in the group are nurses and they can relate to the specific struggles a nurse goes through with an addiction and recovery. There are also addiction support groups for doctors, pharmacists, etc. Many of the professional assistance programs require that they attend one of these support groups weekly.

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5. Don’t go back to the job setting too soon.

One of the biggest mistakes healthcare workers make is going back to the job setting of their addiction too soon. I made that mistake and I relapsed very quickly. It is very hard to return to the setting where you used or where you obtained your drugs. There are triggers everywhere. There are sight triggers as well as smell triggers. You must have a very strong recovery foundation and a lot of support to be able to attempt to go back into that setting. For some people, they are never able to return to that area again. I am one of those. I have chosen to go into a different avenue of nursing. I personally don’t want to put myself in that position at this point in my recovery. It is a personal decision, but I would caution any health care professional to be very aware of the risks.

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A health care professional with an addiction has a very hard, uphill battle to climb to get into recovery, but it can be done. These tips will help you to start building that strong recovery foundation.

About the author
Nurse N Recovery has been an RN for 16 years. Most of those years were spent in Critical Care. 4 years ago, she became addicted to narcotics. She is now in drug addiction recovery and has developed a website to help others suffering from addiction.


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  1. I started lying to my parents shortly after my drug use started. I would find every excuse to get money from my mom, make up any lie I could to have my parents send me money. I lied about my car needing to be serviced when it didn’t, I would lie about needing food or clothes. I would talk to my mom daily but never about what was going on in my life. I started to damage the relationship with my mom early on by lying to her. I would make up stories of things people did to me so she would pity me and help me out; I was really just doing drugs and didn’t know how to tell her I was fucking up. This went on for a few years; it was so hard to keep the lies up one day to the next so I would lie about those lies. I wouldn’t confront the issues I was having in my life and just let my mom take care of things for me. After 3 years of living on my own I decided to move back on with my parents figuring it might help me get and stay sober. It didn’t, my pain pill use just got worse and so did the lying, not being open and not confronting my issues. It was easier to just let my mom handle everything in my life. I spent a year living with my parents acting like I was a child again instead of an adult in my 30s. After a year of lying and stealing money from my parents to support my drug use, I was finally done. I couldn’t take it anymore; it had eaten me up so much I was physically and emotionally ill and not just from my drug use. I would snap at the smallest things, conversations with my parents became more stressful and strained. Everyday had become a lie and I couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired of having a strained relationship with my parents. I love them and hated what I had become and what I was doing to them. I decided on March 20th, 2017 to spill my guts to my mom and admit I needed help. Since admitting what was going on and being honest with my parents and going to rehab our relationship has improved greatly. They visit me every Sunday and instead of fights we have real conversations about real issues. We are open and honest with each other. I couldn’t imagine my life without them and after a few years of hell caused by me, we have a future with a good, stable and honest relationship.

  2. Thank you for your honest accounting of what your struggle has been since admitting you have an addiction problem. Many people can be helped by those willing to speak out about their own personal experience of recovery from a pain pill or even heroin addiction.

  3. I am an LPN for 38 years. I am an addict. I am addicted to soma. I have been clean since Feb. 20 2013. I am now in legal trouble for calling in an early fill on my soma and hydrocodone. I was first given soma in 1995 at a pain clinic for a neck injury I sustained on the job. I have put my family in financial downfall . I have to obtain an attorney. I want to tell other nurses, do not make the mistake I have made. I hope I am able to come out of this ok. I am also bi-polar. This is a sure way of testing my staying clean. Is there any help financially with the attorney’s fees ?

  4. The other advice is to find someone to do the assessments NOT connected to a high dollar rehab. IF they said they thought you were doing well, then they just cost their boss, the one who cuts the paychecks for them, $30,000 to $50,000. If a single pen with a medication on it has been found to influence doctors prescribing, why does anyone anywhere think losing that much money (or look at it as gaining that much money – and I have a feeling there is likely, knowing the in-and-outs of medicine (I am a PA) a bonus for admits. ALL of us in healthcare likely know something about filling beds and getting census up and so on.

    Ethically, someone totally disconnected from all financial gain outside of just the normal doctor patient relationship, needs to do and should be chosen to do the assessments. NOT someone connected to a rehab facility because of the power of influence or pressure. This should be common sense but it isn’t the norm.

  5. I want to give a few cautionary words of advice though about seeking help or when ordered to have a drug evaluation done. One, make sure you always seek out a professional, if one of them is to have total say in your professional ie….can destroy you professionally and sometimes every other way, that IS NOT nor has been in recovery. I understand everyone thinks they can “relate” better. But as one who worked in inpatient rehab and as one who went through it himself, if they have “been there” they consciously or subconsciously will see your path to recovery compared to theirs.

    You can either have a path that is equal to or worse then their path to sobriety (I had a suspicion a few I had seen were not truly “sober:”) but it cannot ever be a path that was easier or better then theirs or you will be a denier, someone who “doesn’t get it” or someone lying to themselves. This, I believe is what we call “transferrence” wherein they cannot get past their own backgrounds.

    Another caveat related to this is that self-confidence and positive outlook will ALWAYS be viewed with skepticism and are not welcome nor rewarded in rehab settings. They teach that one needs to “understand theirself” and find strength, but if you do, and show it, it will again be viewed as in denial, as lying to oneself, and so on. There is this almost “game” you have to play (I can’t play it – I have NEVER had a bad urine/hair/blood test but because I will say I am done, it will never happen again, they ALWAYS hold it against me (I got in trouble with some muscle relaxers after I contracted severe hyperthyroidism – misdiagnosed for 4 years – and another syndrome, again misdiagnosed for 7 years over and over even with hospitlaizations, that caused severe hypokalemia. No matter. One rehab professional assessment never I said NEVER once looked at my medical files not contacted my doctors or other rehab. They said to gather my records, I did at great cost, and they never touched it or turned a page. NOTHING. So play the game if you have the stomach for it – sackcloth and ashes and contriteness and say over and over you’re nothing and repeat “I am an addict” again and again. It makes the counselor/doctor feel better about their self and they are more apt to give you a better report.

  6. I just got my LPN license back after loosing it because I didn’t enter the voluntary recovery program after I reported to the board that I had gotten arrested and charged with misdameanors. I am now in the pennsylvania nurses peer assistant program. I just can’t give narcs for six months. But very nervous now about trying to get a job. Any suggestions would help.

  7. Hi Neel and Lauren. Check out nursenrecovery [dot] com. Email/Contact the author and you may find direct support there. I wish you all the best!

  8. I am also looking for a peer support group in my area. I have been addicted to narcotics for 3 years since I had bone cancer and had major surgery. I would like to even have some online support, just to have someone to talk with who understands my stuggles as an addict and a nurse. Thanks for any help you can provide!

  9. I am a RN in recovery since 2010. I have been voluntarily particpating in the state’s professional assistance recovery program in the state I reside. I am seeking employment in another state. I do not feel comfortable revealing my voluntary particpation. I fearmy participation will cause me to be not considered for the job position. I do not have a peer support group in my area because it is in a remote rural area.

  10. Hi Tyra. Try to get in touch with the author by visiting the website she operates: nursenrecovery[dot]com. I think that she has some community forum boards on her site. And you can contact her directly by email there, too. If you don’t hear back, let us know and we will try to get in touch with her as well.

  11. I am looking for a nursesupport group in the Columbus, Ohio area. The ONA,treatment centers and the Board of nursing know of no current group. The one at Talbot Hall,OSU Hosp East has not been around for at least a couple of years. Are there any here? If not how can I start one? Thank you, Tyra

  12. Hi Tanisha. I feel for you. It sounds like you are having a really difficult time. If you can email me your zip code (admin [at] addictionblog [dot] org), I can look into local resources for you. Do not despair! You are not alone.

  13. i am a LPN in n.y state with a addiction to pain pills. i have been sober since 8/15/2007. since the day i entered treatment in 2007 my life has been turned upside down. i recently was hospitalized for depression and severe weight loss. i am currently unemployed and searching for help to give me the tools i need to move on and re-enter the work force. i have loss so much and i needso much help. i am begging for help, please if anyone can help me deal with all my personal issues please contact me. if anyone is listening, please help me. thank you

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