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Nursing’s Response to Substance Use Disorder in the Nurse and Student Nurse

Obviously the response has been mixed. Overall, my experience since entering the profession in 1972 has been negative. First, I was as guilty as the next health care provider. I’ll plead ignorance and learning from those around me way back then. I was an orderly in an emergency room of a large, private hospital in the midwest. There was little if any education regarding “addiction” or “alcoholism”.

When I entered nursing school in the mid-70’s, we learned about alcoholism and addiction, only not the disease itself, but the complications of these “problems”. Despite the fact that the AMA had officially recognized these issues, no one really treated the “impaired” individual with respect. Everyone knew these people could quit if they wanted, they just didn’t want to quit!

When I was in anesthesia training in the late 70s and early 80s, we still didn’t learn about the disease of addiction, even though it turns out this disease is the leading health hazard for anesthesia providers. Not until I developed the disease as a result of chronic pain (spondylolisthesis), exposure to opioids, and my genetic predisposition did I finally begin to learn what it means to have this disease. I also discovered how little my colleagues knew (and still DON’T know) courtesy of the STIGMA I faced.

As a result of significant research over the past 25+ years, we now know more about this disease than we have at any other time in history, yet we still see significant stigma for those unlucky enough to have this damn disease! If you happen to be a health care professional with addiction...you face a serious uphill climb personally and professionally. This disease destroys your spiritual health, emotional health, and many of the relationships (if not all) in your life, personally AND professionally. It will take everything you have worked hard for before finally killing your body.


Together we’ll find the help you seek, and get your life back.

You are NOT evil, stupid or weak willed. You have a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal disease of the brain. Treatment works. Long term remission (recovery) is possible.

Welcome home!!


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