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'Hospital heroin': How medical professionals cope with addiction


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Medical professionals are not exempt from the opioid crisis. An addiction campuses report found in one year in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, 114 nurses lost their licenses because of substance misuse.

Amanda Martin had a tough few years that could knock anyone out. She lost a child, her husband was deployed oversees, and she was diagnosed with lupus.

“I was an RN and I was working full time, and so that's where my addiction began,” Martin said.

Martin was a labor and delivery nurse in Memphis. She explained that nurses would often come home with half vials of medication in their pockets because patients would only need half, and a nurse can easily forget to throw the other half away.

One day, she came home with a 2mm vial of Dilaudid.

“Dilaudid is what they call hospital heroin. It's 100 times stronger than morphine,” Martin said.

One millimeter of Dilaudid is normally used per hour on a C-section patient.

“It's hard to get pain medicine because most doctors are fairly strict about it now, so when you have that addiction being a nurse, it is right there and it is a temptation,” Martin said.

She eventually figured out that she could easily sneak Dilaudid out of the medicine dispensing machines at the hospital. She could type in a patient’s name, and even if they weren’t prescribed the drug, the dispensing drawer would pop open with the drug readily available.

“So, I wasn't taking the medication from the patients, but my supervisor figured that out. She saw me and she knew that the patients I had were not on narcotics like that,” Martin said.

She eventually lost her license and ended up in jail, and she's not alone.

“I've met a lot of nurses that are in the recovery nurses program or are no longer nurses,” Martin said.

Addiction campuses’ Brian Sullivan says many medical professionals delay getting treatment out of fear.

“Admitting that you have an issue with something that could end your career like that, that could end everything that you've worked for your entire life, the pressure of that can be insurmountable,” Sullivan said.

He says they're constantly taking on other people's trauma, and it's easy to let their guard down and succumb to their own.

“One of the things we really need to work on doing is end the stigma within the medical community,” Sullivan said.

That's exactly what Martin’s working to do.

“It's not just these disgusting people or dirty people that may have problems. Getting rid of that stereotype and that stigma behind seeking treatment makes a difference,” Martin said.

Martin has been sober for two years. She's currently working as a recovery coach and peer specialist for addiction campuses in Memphis.

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If you or a loved one need help, contact Addiction Campuses Help Line at 1.888.614.2251 or visit their website

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