I do not believe any nurse wakes up in the morning saying to themselves, “I want to do drugs today!”
I consider substance use disorder (SUD) to be a biological condition where the brain has cravings for a particular substance, and nothing will alleviate it except getting that substance into their system.
Unfortunately, a nurse with SUD doesn’t just wake up and say, “I’m not going to do this anymore.” It usually requires treatment and intervention.
Some nurses suffering from chronic pain subsequently develop a SUD for which the pain can be alleviated only through the narcotic or Suboxone which relieves the craving as well as reduces the pain symptoms.
It is unfortunate that in Indiana the peer assistance monitoring program, Indiana Professional Recovery Program (IPRP), is an abstinence-based program by regulation. It was a regulation promulgated by the Indiana State Board of Nursing through the rule making process.
The Board has been inflexible with those who are on Suboxone who need monitoring.
An aggrieved nurse brought a complaint to the Department of Justice stating that she had been taking Suboxone and in solid recovery for a year. However, for her to get off that medication to participate in the monitoring program would be detrimental to her health and well-being.
The Department of Justice agreed and opined that a person with substance use disorder in recovery has a disability and public programs that prevent access, such as the peer assistance monitoring program (IPRP), is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I know that throughout the years, nurses on Suboxone had to agree to revocation or suspension of their license until they could get off the medication before being allowed to participate in the program.
It will be interesting to see if the Board will change their rules to allow people who take Suboxone to participate in the program or if they will require monitoring elsewhere. This is a big win for some nurses who require Suboxone to keep them from abusing narcotics.
This also has additional ramifications for nurses who take Adderall for ADHD or take a controlled substance for epilepsy to prevent seizures or narcolepsy.
I am glad that the Department of Justice does not see this as “a one size fits all” approach and is meeting nurses with their disability where they are and requiring the Board to give them options.