By Eileen Gavin
MNA Political Organizer
Substance use disorder (SUD), also known as drug use disorder, is a condition in which the use of one or more substances leads to a clinically significant impairment or distress. Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) In 2014, about 21.5 million Americans (8.1%) were classified with a substance use disorder in the past year. Of those, 2.6 million had problems with both alcohol and drugs, 4.5 million had problems with drugs but not alcohol, and 14.4 million had problems with alcohol only.
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease. Addiction can affect anyone, it is an equal opportunity disease. Nurses and other Health care workers, have about the same prevalence for substance abuse and addition as the general public, but there are unique workplace factors that actually increase a nurse’s opportunity and risk for addiction. Staffing shortages, increased patient acuity and assignment ratios, demands from administrators and physicians, shift rotation, long work hours, and in some instances even being subject to workplace bullying or violence, are some of the factors contributing to high stress and feelings of powerlessness. With the given workplace stress, dealing with issues at home or a lack of coping mechanism to deal with pressures in their life, all may contribute to a higher risk of substance use disorder. Nurses also have somewhat easy access to controlled substances and other drugs of abuse. Its critical to note that, Substance use disorder is a medical condition, not a moral failing. Research shows that SUD is also treatable and longtime successful long-term recovery is possible for those who maintain a rigorous program. Because addiction causes changes in the brain, relapse is always a possibility, but committing to a relapse prevention plan that often includes activities such as attendance to 12 step program, professional support groups, and induvial counseling can greatly increase your chance of achieving long-term sobriety. SUD is a challenging and complex condition for the nursing profession, but there is help!
Support groups have been created to help all sorts of professionals struggling with substance abuse, such as Doctors helping Doctors and Lawyers helping Lawyers. Research indicates that active participation in any type of peer support group increases the likelihood that members will abstain from alcohol and drugs. Furthermore, abstinence rates increase with greater group participation. Nurses, who have experienced substance use disorder themselves, know that they have a better chance of recovering if they help one another. So, nurses here in St. Paul decided to start a group to help other nurses, the Nurse Peer Support Network (NPSN). The groups vision is, that “All nurses in Minnesota will have access to community-based peer support for substance use disorder.” And their mission, “Meaningful peer support for nurses with substance use disorder in a safe environment with the purpose of giving hope and healing to the individual nurse. And Education and outreach about substance use disorder in nursing to promote safety to the public.” The Peer Support Nurse Network offers meetings several days a week throughout the twin cities to any nurse in need. MNA whole heartedly supports the values, mission and efforts of NPSN. MNA understand the severity of addiction and is committed to connecting nurses to the help they need to recover. We commend the nurses who have dedicated themselves to helping other nurses recover, the nurses who have created this amazing network, and to those suffering from addition know that there is hope and there is help.
In terms of the upcoming legislative session, MNA will support legislation that will add a surcharge to the Nurse Licensing fee to support the Nurse Peer Support Network. We know this network provides meaningful peer support for nurses with substance use disorder in a safe environment with the purpose of giving hope and healing to the individual nurse.
For more information on the Nurse Peer Support Network click here http://npsnetwork-mn.org/