Sunday, April 8, 2012


In the past seven years I have treated dozens of nurses. Some have come to us for alcohol dependence. But the majority have been Opioid Dependent. That's correct. These professionals that we depend upon to hold our hands and minister to us when we are sick, are often very ill themselves.

They begin by taking Percocets for stress, then a little Oxycontin for back pain and many of them progress to Dilaudid to get through their shift. The sad part of this behavior is that they more often than not, they take medicine from their places of work - hospitals, nursing homes and even hospice. Some even substitute placebos for the actually pain medications, leaving their patients in distress.

Although this is the minority of people in the nursing profession, it still begs the question, WHY? Is the job too stressful? Do we not provide enough down time for our most valuable caregivers? Are there folks in the profession with no regard for a work ethic and who leave their co-workers to run back to back shifts because they feel like calling in sick? Do some people enter the profession with a predisposition towards drug addiction?

I do not have the answer. What I do know is that this is becoming a problem that we need to address. I also think that support for recovery is a better idea than punishment. We need nurses. They deserve our help, if not for humanitarian reasons, than at the very least because it is good Karma.


Gerry said...

Medical professionals are no different than anyone else. Their education may give them a false sence of seccurity that "addiction" is a problem for other people. The issue is not accessability, but why are so many people seeking avenues to escape reality? What is it about life that makes intelligent people want to be numb?

Dr. Alicen said...

Actually Gerry, there are many reasons why people want to escape from reality. Many folks are living paycheck to paycheck. The financial burden is stressful - especially when there is no end in sight.

Others have suffered trauma. Some in childhood, some in war. Abandonment and neglect are also major issues in childhood which often go unresolved.

Any one of these things can be too much to deal with if a person has not developed good coping skills. Then alcohol, drugs and gambling become methods to change the way a person feels, making them numb. It is a sad commentary, but a reality nonetheless.