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Substance Use Among Nurses and Nursing Students

Help for Nurses and Nursing Students with Substance Use Disorder

ANA recognizes that a nurse’s duty of compassion and caring extends to themselves and their colleagues as well as to their patients. Nurses who are challenged with substance use disorder (SUD) not only pose a potential threat to those for whom they care; they are not caring for themselves.

According to the HHS, SUD refers to substance use and/or substance dependence. It is the damaging use of harmful substances, including alcohol, marijuana, opioids, and other drugs.

ANA and many of our organizational affiliates, including the International Nurses Society on Addictions (IntNSA), the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), strongly support alternative to discipline programs offered by nurses associations, state boards of nursing, and others. These programs offer comprehensive monitoring and support services to reasonably assure the safe rehabilitation and return of the nurse to her or his professional community. In 2017, ANA and AANA endorsed IntNSA and ENA’s position statement, "Substance Use Among Nurses and Nursing Students." Please view this statement in its entirety to gain valuable insight on the description and background on this issue. ANA thanks the members of ANA’s Substance Use Disorder Workgroup; which was a collaboration of subject matter experts, constituent/state nurses associations, organizational affiliates, and other interested parties engaged to assist with updating ANA SUD policy and resources. Additionally, the following three national nursing organizations contributed to these webpages with their policy and leadership:

ANA Policy and Resources

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Substance Use Disorder Resources - In 2017, ANA’s Substance Use Disorder Workgroup collected the following table of resources across a variety of media types. A brief description of each resource as well as authors and web addresses are provided. Resources include reference articles, pertinent directories, useful websites, and more to allow for an extensive exploration on substance use disorder in nursing and nursing students.

For Nurses with SUD
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) offers an Alternative to Discipline Programs for Substance Use Disorder directory for nurses to locate alternative to discipline programs for SUD by state.

For Nurses Concerned for a Colleague 
This NCSBN online brochure, What You Need to Know About Substance Use Disorder in Nursinginforms nurses of their ethical and professional responsibilities about reporting suspected or know SUD in colleagues.

For Employers
See Chapter 6 of NCSBN’s SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER IN NURSING: A Resource Manual and Guidelines for Alternative and Disciplinary Monitoring Programsoffers a comprehensive examination of SUD in the healthcare workplace, particularly for nurse managers.

For Nursing Students
Although not specifically for nursing students, the NIH’s National Institute of Drug Abuse College-Age & Young Adults’ webpages, contain resources for how and where to get assistance for substance abuse, as well as drug facts, infographics, and more. Currently, there is very little updated guidance for nursing students with substance use disorder. Nursing students may want to consult their health care provider, college health center, or employee assistance program.

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