Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

Nurses Use Of Controlled Substances

What is the first thing that a physician orders when you work night shift and have trouble sleeping during the day?  The physician orders Ambien!

Maybe you’ve been working long hours; walking the hard floors of a hospital and it’s taking a toll on your back and other joints.  If you have pain, which cannot be controlled by non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, the physician prescribes hydrocodone!

Now, if you were then asked to take a drug screen, the hospitals are usually okay with positive results if you have a valid prescription for the medication.  However, if you don’t have a proper prescription … watch out!

And unexplained positive result on urinalysis can result in a referral to the State Board of Nursing.  For example, if you took an old prescription of hydrocodone for pain, that could be a problem if that medication was not prescribed for that use.

Should you take a hydrocodone from a friend or family member, that is also a problem as it is considered diversion: taking someone else’s prescribed medication for your own use.

As nurses, we are responsible for what we put in our bodies.  If we are taking someone else’s prescription, that amounts to practicing medicine without a license.

Now, if the controlled substances you take are properly prescribed and you are referred to the Licensing Board, some of those Boards do have concerns about nurses being on controlled substances for chronic problems.

For example, where I live, the Indiana State Nurses Assistance Program (ISNAP) is an abstinence-based program.  If you are required to participate in this program, you will not be allowed to take any controlled substances even if you have a valid prescription from your Physician.

What if you are taking Adderall and you’ve tried everything else to help you concentrate and focus on your job as a scrub nurse?  At least in Indiana, by regulation of the Indiana State Board of Nursing, you would not be allowed to continue in ISNAP and take Adderall.

What if you have narcolepsy and take Provigil?  Since Provigil is a controlled substance and, if you are in ISNAP, you would not be allowed to continue with that medication.

In Indiana, the Board, the Attorney General’s office and the ISNAP can access your INSPECT report to determine whether you have been properly prescribed any controlled substances.  This may also be true in other states.  So much for privacy …

If you have been taking controlled substances for a considerable period of time, I strongly suggest that you find ways to deal with the medical issue without taking those controlled substances.  The reason the substances are controlled in the first place is because there is a probability for addiction and potential abuse.

It certainly is not the Board’s job to usurp your medical care but they do have the right to license nurses.  If the Board has any concern that you’re taking controlled substances for a long period of time, they may consider that as impairment.

If you don’t need controlled substances, the best advice is to avoid taking them.


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