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Beyond Nurse Jackie: Twin City nurses and addiction

Many of us are aware of the Netflix series Nurse Jackie starring Edie Falco. The series, a medical comedy-drama, chronicles the life of superstar, but pain-killer addicted nurse Jackie Peyton. The series ran from 2009 to 2015. But what we may not be aware of is that high numbers of our Twin City nurses struggle with pain killer and alcohol addiction. 

Staggering statistics

In 2014 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 8 percent or 21.5 million Americans had substance abuse disorder. But the numbers and percentages are higher for nurses and those in the healthcare field. The American Nurses Association (ANA) reports that up to 10 percent of nurses may have an active substance abuse problem. 

A report in the 2013 January/ February Nursing Research journal states that between 14 and 20 percent of the nurses working right now in the United States have a dependence on alcohol or drugs. Broken down that means 1 out of every 5-7 nurses has a drug or alcohol problem. 

Not a moral or character flaw

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a medical disorder, not a moral failure. There are many reasons why people in the healthcare field such as doctors and especially nurses struggle with addiction. According the to the Minnesota Nurses Association these include:

  • Life or death decision making daily
  • High-stress situations with staff, patients and administration
  • Long hours, shift changes and schedules that do not allow for breaks or sleep
  • Workplace violence and bullying
  • Lack of coping mechanisms

If you, someone you work with or someone you care about is a nurse with an issue with drugs or alcohol reach out for help. In Minnesota contact the Nurse Peer Support Network

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