Substance Use Disorder in Nursing

No one is immune from developing Substance Use Disorder. It can affect anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, economic circumstance or occupation. Nurses who abuse substances pose a unique challenge to the nursing profession. The behavior that results from this disease has far-reaching and negative effects, not only on the nurses themselves, but also upon the patients who depend on the nurse for safe, competent care. Early recognition, reporting and intervention are fundamental for keeping patients safe from harm and helping colleagues recover. 

watch video Substance Use Disorder in Nursing

Substance Use Disorder in Nursing tackles one of the most serious problems facing nursing today. The video provides a comprehensive look at the issue of substance use disorder. Watch now!

Prior to the 1980s, nurses were often fired by employers and/or disciplined by the board of nursing (BON) when evidence of substance use became apparent. Non-disciplinary programs, offering an alternative to traditional discipline, are now used by a growing number of state BON. These programs provide the nurse with rapid involvement in a rehabilitation or treatment program and remove the nurse from providing care until safety to practice can be established and confirmed.

When treatment for nurses is individually tailored to meet their needs and an appropriate supportive monitoring system is in place, nurses can recover and return to practice safely. An extensive body of scientific evidence demonstrates that approaching substance use disorders as treatable illness is extremely effective for the individual using substances, as well as for society. 

Substance Use Disorder Resources

Related Publications

Published Date: 2014
Topic: Practice and Education

Substance use disorder (SUD) is rarely discussed on nursing units. It is the responsibility of a nurse manager, however, to provide education, dispel myths and take action when needed. This brochure outlines the roles and responsibilities of the nurse manager in situations involving SUD.

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Published Date: 2014
Topic: Practice and Education

This brochure explains how substance use disorder (SUD) affects the nursing profession. Nurses have a legal ethical responsibility to report a colleague’s suspected drug use; learn how to recognize the warning signs and what to do to get a colleague help. Nurses that educate themselves about SUD help not only their colleagues, but they also protect patients.

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Published Date: 2014
Topic: Practice and Education

This poster is designed to help nurses educate themselves about SUD changes, physical signs and signals will help not only their colleagues with SUD, but also protect patients. This is a companion piece to What You Need to Know About Substance Use Disorder in Nursing.

Published Date: 2014
Topic: Practice and Education

This poster is designed to bring awareness about SUD to nursing leaders, as they have an important responsibility — to keep patients and staff safe, while maintaining high standards of care on your nursing unit. This is a companion piece to the brochure A Nurse Manager’s Guide to Substance Use Disorder in Nursing.

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NCSBN Learning Extension Substance Use Disorder Courses

These self-paced continuing education courses from Learning Extension are designed for nurses and nurse managers. Register at learningext.com

Understanding Substance Use Disorder in Nursing

4.0 contact hours | Free! 

This self-paced course will help nurses acquire the knowledge to recognize and report a colleague with SUD, while compassionately getting them the help they need and protecting the public. 

Nurse Manager Guidelines for Substance Use Disorder

3.0 contact hours | Free! 

This self-paced course for nurse managers will take knowledge to the next level to proactively prevent, detect and intervene when a nurse is suspected of suffering from SUD.  

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Substance Use Disorder in Nursing: Resource Manual and Guidelines

The Substance Use Disorder in Nursing Resource Manual and Guidelines provides practical and evidence-based guidelines for evaluating, treating, and managing nurses with a substance use disorder. 

Features include: 

  • Information on prevention, detection and intervention 
  • Essential theoretical and practical guidelines 
  • Current research and knowledge synthesized from the field 
  • Material to enhance alternative to discipline programs (ATD) 
  • Guidelines for regulatory bodies in the evaluation of ATD programs 
  • Examples of model contracts, forms and reports  

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The NCSBN Checklist and Program Audit for Alternative to Discipline or Monitoring Programs Tool

This checklist and program audit of Alternative to Discipline Program or Monitoring Program (ATD program) analyzes fourteen criteria to determine whether the ATD program is in alignment with NCSBN Guidelines for Alternative Programs and Discipline Monitoring Programs within Substance Use Disorder in Nursing. The checklist and audit will identify and inform, and then assist in the management and remediation of any deficiencies.