When you think of substance abuse and those who fall victim to it, the last persons that might come to mind is the medical community, such as doctors and nurses. Well, when you’re surrounded by a whole host of medicinal drugs, it can not only be easy to access those drugs, but once having taken them, easily get hooked.

Nurses can be particularly vulnerable as they are who usually administer the drugs doctors prescribe for their patients. Nurses can actually see the effects of these drugs, while also clinically understanding if the drug they’ve administered is a depressant, stimulant, or painkiller.

Taking part in a profession in which experts claim1 that as much as 15 percent of all nurses struggle with addiction, which is a significantly higher rate of substance abuse than the general public, it should be no surprise that nurses can and have gone wild with drugs.


In most scenarios, today’s medical world is overworked and because of that, stressed out. An increasing number of hospitals suggest that these work conditions can come from having understaffed shifts, a constant flow of patients with varying afflictions, and continually changing rules and regulations from outside entities, such as insurance companies. To say the least, in medicine, keeping up on a day-to-day basis is a tall and increasingly difficult order.

For many nurses, the tension and long hours can result in sleeplessness, chronic body pain, migraine headaches, and other maladies. Like anyone else who suffers these ailments, relief through drugs can give temporary relief, yet in the long run turn into a chemical dependency. Unlike anyone else however, a nurse can easily access the medication they have now become addicted to.

Another issue that nurses face is the notion that they are present to give aid and comfort without asking for anything in return. Nursing can be a thankless job in which a nurse is given little to no regard to his or her own needs. This is another factor that can lead to addiction within the nursing profession.


Accessibility can be particularly challenging to a nurse with a substance abuse problem. Whether in a hospital or a private office, the drugs are readily available to a nurse, and in some cases, no one will question a nurse as they pick up (or steal) what would otherwise be a legitimate prescription for an ill patient.

It is at this point that a nurse should truly seek help. In fact, seeking and gaining help as soon as possible can help detour a nurse from addiction-type behavior like stealing, lying, or cheating to continue with their addiction.


As a health practitioner, a nurse can take immense pride in their career. On the other hand, the loss of that career due to substance abuse can be detrimental. This can be particularly true as a nurse suffering work-related substance abuse might believe he or she has broken a vow with their profession, patients, and themselves.

In an article2 that details one nurse’s addiction to prescription drugs, it was pointed out how an addicted nurse can undergo the same emotional and behavioral issues as any other addict. They feel guilt of losing their reputation, family and friends. Drug addiction, however, can be more devastating for someone in the healthcare industry as being an addict breaches professional ethics, places patients at risk, and can affect the reputation of their colleagues and work facility.

In other cases, the guilt and shame experienced during a nurse’s addiction can reflect itself as a lack of willpower, which nurses in turn stress their patients have while they recover from whatever afflictions or injuries they have.

That same stigma of guilt and shame is also prevalent beyond the hospital walls to where it embeds itself into U.S. society. Such so-called disgrace can make it additionally difficult for a nurse to address his or her addiction with professional help, or at the very least, find a facility that can help tackle their ailment of being a substance abuser who works within healthcare.


Just in the same way that we wouldn’t expect a hospital to throw out a sick person, we should not expect that same healthcare facility to dismiss a nurse who has a substance abuse issue. But this happens more often than not, as hospitals ultimately seek to not have their reputations damaged.

This, in part, could be a reason why nurses lack experience with addiction and the ability to recognize its causes, particularly with a colleague. These two factors will usually result in the nurse who is experiencing substance abuse being fired, which in turn benefits no one: the hospital loses a staff member for whom it should have cared for instead of firing, and that same nurse can apply to other healthcare facilities where if they do land a nursing job, they can pose a new risk to a new group of patients.

This article should reveal two basic principles of addiction: those are, 1) No one is immune from addiction to substances designed to alleviate stress or pain, and 2) No one should be castigated, punished, or belittled because of their addiction. Nor should they be fired. They should instead be offered help. This goes for our healthcare practitioners, people who we may believe is above drug addiction, but at the day’s end, are no more resilient to substance abuse than we are.

If you or a loved one have an addiction to alcohol, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery within 30 days. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.


  1. Nurses and Substance Abuse, Nurses Together.com. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  2. Drug Addiction among nurses: Confronting a quiet epidemic, Modern Medicine Network. Retrieved April 25, 2016.


Nurses Gone Wild with Drugs