Nurses are the backbone of the American health care system, filling approximately 4 million roles within the industry — which is four times the number of physicians throughout the U.S.. Not only do nurses make up a majority of health care workers but also, they shoulder much of the burden in any given health care environment. The high stress of their jobs, the long hours and the rotating shifts, coupled with easy access to addictive medications, make nurses particularly vulnerable to chemical dependency. If you work in a health care setting in Ohio, and if you suspect a colleague abuses prescription drugs, it would be helpful to know the signs of addiction so that you can act accordingly.

According to findings published by, one in 10 nurses today abuse drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse is dangerous no matter who the victim is, but in nurses, it can be even more so. Substance abuse disorder can result in slower reaction times and impaired judgement. If a nurse abuses drugs and continues to work, he or she may put him or herself, patients and the nursing profession at risk. To prevent tragic or costly accidents, all members of a health care organization should be aware of what substance abuse disorder looks like.

Recognizing chemical dependency in a colleague can be difficult as many nurses know how to hide their dependences. Some might appear to be in good spirits all the time while others may retain an air of calm and professionalism. However, there are some common signs of addiction most people cannot hide.

Drug abuse often causes excessive fatigue, dilated pupils, tremors and rapid weight gain or loss. If you notice any of those signs, look for others along with it. For instance, if a colleague has recently put on a lot of weight, seems to always have a cold and constantly pops breath mints, he or she may have an addiction. The same may be true if a colleague constantly uses the restroom or complains of being nauseous all the time. If a normally well-kempt individual suddenly begins to show up for work looking disheveled and unclean, or if a timely colleague begins to show up late for work, he or she may be a victim of the powerful sway of prescription drugs.

Many drug addicted nurses display behavioral signs of drug abuse as well. Common signs of drug abuse that fall within this category include hyperactivity, frequent anger, lack of concentration, inappropriate laughter, lying and insomnia.

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