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Promoting a Culture of Wellness: Addressing Alcohol and Drug Addiction among Nurses

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Promoting a Culture of Wellness: Addressing

Alcohol and Drug Addiction among Nurses

Nurses are the backbone of the medical profession providing comfort, care, and compassion to

patients from all walks of life.

But as noble as their work may be, it's not without its challenges. The long hours, emotional

strain, and multiple high-pressure situations can lead to burnout and even addiction.

Statistics show that substance abuse among nurses is on the rise, particularly during and post

pandemic. It's more important now than ever before to take proactive steps to prevent and support

addiction in the nurses.

According to a study published in the Journal of Addictions Nursing, nurses are likelier than the general population to abuse substances. According to the survey, nurses experience elevated tension, fatigue, and emotional exhaustion, which can contribute to substance abuse. In addition, nurses frequently work in environments exposed to patients with substance abuse issues, which can increase their vulnerability to addiction.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, direct COVID-19 care providers reported higher rates of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. This increased stress and emotional burden can increase the likelihood of substance abuse among nurses.

Fortunately, there are interventions supported by evidence that can prevent and treat addiction among nurses. A systematic review published in the Journal of Addictions Nursing determined, for instance, that workplace support and education programmes can effectively reduce substance misuse among nurses. In addition, the review emphasized the significance of early intervention and access to addiction treatment programmes.

Another study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that the support of coworkers and superiors can be a crucial factor in preventing substance abuse among nurses. The study found that peer support programmes and education initiatives that emphasize the development of a supportive culture can help reduce the risk of addiction among nurses.

Research indicates that addressing nurse addiction requires a multifa

ceted approach, including prevention, early intervention, and comprehensive treatment programmes. By fostering a wellness culture that promotes nurses' mental health and well-being, healthcare facilities can safeguard their staff and provide the highest quality care to patients.

Factors Contributing to Alcohol and Drug Addiction Among Nurses

Alcohol and drug addiction in the nursing profession is often a result of working in an

environment that is emotionally and physically stressful.

Other factors that can add to drug and alcohol misuse from nurses includes:

  • Being stressed: Nurses work in high-pressured situations that can trigger chronic

  • stress, depression and anxiety.

  • Being exhausted and overworked: Long working hours and unpredictable schedules

  • can disrupt sleep and lead to exhaustion and burnout.

  • Witnessing trauma: Nurses see it all, from accidents to emergencies to deaths, these

  • emotional experiences can leave a lasting emotional impact.

  • Mental health stigma Healthcare personnel are frequently expected to be strong and resilient, which can contribute to the stigma surrounding mental health issues. The reluctance of nurses to seek assistance for anxiety, melancholy, or other conditions can result in self-medication with drugs or alcohol.

  • Violence in the workplace can cause trauma. Nurses are at a greater risk for workplace violence than many other professions and physical or verbal abuse incidents can be traumatic. This trauma can contribute to the onset of substance abuse.

  • Nurses who lack strong social support networks at work or in their personal lives may be more prone to addiction. Managing job-related tension and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be challenging without assistance.

Recognizing the Indicators of Substance Misuse and Addiction in Nurses

Nurses struggling with alcohol and drug misuse may display a range of symptoms, including:

● Moodiness

● Irritability

● Anxiety

● Withdraw from colleagues

● Experience fatigue

● Negative changes in their appearance

Practical Approaches for Overcoming Addiction: Strategies and Techniques

Overcoming addiction and leading a fulfilling life can be achieved by nurses through various


● Beat addiction with expert help: Nurses struggling with addiction should seek

guidance from addiction specialists or mental health professionals.

● Recover together: Join support groups with people experiencing similar

challenges to you. This provides a safe space to share experiences.

● Create healthy habits, for a healthy mind: Incorporate healthy habits such as regular

exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep to promote well-being and fast-track


● Become less stressed: Manage stress through activities like yoga, mindfulness,

meditation, or movement therapy.

● Never fight alone: Recovery is easier with a strong support system. You should reach

out to family, friends, and colleagues who can provide emotional support.

How can we prevent addition among nurses

To protect nurses from addiction and offer support to those struggling with alcohol or drug

addiction, employers and healthcare facilities can implement a variety of measures.

● Offer education: Healthcare facilities can offer education and prevention programs to

help nurses better understand addiction and manage stress.

● Support employees from the start: Employers can provide access to counseling,

addiction treatment, and other resources to help nurses address addiction early on.

● Offer comprehensive treatment: Nurses struggling with addiction require access to

comprehensive treatment programs.

● Implement monitoring programs: Employers can implement monitoring programs to

identify nurses who may be engaging in risky behavior and to ensure recovery nurses adhere to their treatment plans.

● Create a supportive culture: Healthcare facilities can create a culture of empathy by

training colleagues, providing peer support groups, and offering resources to help nurses


Addressing alcohol and drug addiction among nurses is crucial for protecting their well-being

and ensuring quality patient care.

Employers and healthcare facilities must take proactive measures, such as education programs

and support for addiction treatment

Nurses can take proactive steps to overcome addiction through healthy habits by seeking expert

help, and build a strong support system.

By promoting a culture of wellness, we can support our nurses to be happy, healthy and fulfilled

in their work.


  1. Do you know what caused you to misuse alcohol or drugs?

  2. What helped you recover from misusing alcohol or drugs?

  3. Have you or someone you know experienced substance misuse or addiction in the workplace? What steps were taken to address it, and were they effective?

  4. How can healthcare organizations and institutions better support nurses in maintaining their wellness and preventing addiction?

  5. What can individuals do to support their own mental and emotional health and to prevent burnout and addiction in high-stress work environments like nursing?


Sources: :


Shipton, E. A., Wood, E. M., & Karim, J. (2011). A grounded theory study of the psychological factors that influence burnout in addiction counsellors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41(5), 1069-1090.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing. (2016). Substance use disorder in nursing: A resource manual and guidelines for alternative and disciplinary monitoring programs.

American Nurses Association. (2018). Addressing nurse impairment: Strategies for success.

American Nurses Association. (2015). Nursing: Scope and standards of practice. (3rd ed.). Silver Spring, MD: Author. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Stress and coping.

Hughes, L. C., Chang, Y., Markossian, T. W., & Lichtenstein, B. (2011). Occupational stress and work-related injury in nurses. Journal of Occupational Safety and Health, 8(4), 259-266.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). TIP 63: Medications for opioid use disorder.

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