As the opioid epidemic has continued to grow since 1999, so too has the awareness for exactly how bad this problem is. This is good news, as awareness and education are the first steps necessary to fight the spread of addiction, and enable our population to help addicts. However, one particular dark irony that permeates the story of addiction in America is that the very people who are helping our addicts might be especially perceptible to addiction. We are talking about nurses. Here’s some information about the shocking number of nurses who are currently struggling with addiction and opioid abuse…
Nurses are especially at risk of opioid abuse
The sad reality of the medical landscape, and how it relates to the landscape of addiction, is that nurses are especially at risk of opioid abuse. Although this might seem surprising, and it certainly is a dark truth, it actually makes sense when you think about it. Nurses have an incredibly high stress job, one which requires them to work long hours and witness the effects of traumatic accidents and health problems. On top of that, nurses have easy access to medical opioids, and can get their own prescriptions to dangerous drugs. The knowledge of the medical system that allows nurses to help so many people also puts them directly in the line of addiction medications.
Particular issue in Massachusetts
While this issue is a problem across the entire country, there is a particularly high amount of data on nurses who struggle with addiction in Massachusetts. For example, over 70 nurses in Massachusetts had to surrender their medical licenses in 2016, due to their own experiences with addiction and substance abuse. This is a growing issue, as well, as this was almost three times as many nurses that had to do the same thing in 2015.
Nurses are also at a higher risk for injury than other professions, due to the fast-paced environments and stress that comes with the job. This means that a nurse is more likely to get into a situation where they will be prescribed medical opioids. According to the Department of Public Health, between 8% and 10% of nurses are affected by substance abuse.