Study: 15K Hoosier nurses could be fighting drug and alcohol addiction

By Derrik Thomas

INDIANAPOLIS — A new study suggests as many as 15,000 nurses in Indiana are fighting their own battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

Last November, the Henry County Drug Task Force conducted a raid at an apartment complex. They found 39 grams of methamphetamine, large amounts of cash and paraphernalia. As a result, 50-year-old Roy Peters was charged with dealing meth. Also under arrest was 27-year-old Kasey Barnard – a nurse accused of purchasing meth approximately 20 times from Peters.

“Any time you have a professional who is under the influence of any narcotic, someone is in trouble,” said Henry County Sheriff Rick McCorkle. “Not only the individual taking the drug, but those who are in her care.”

Barnard’s nursing license has been suspended, but not before she had three separate methamphetamine incidents. The Indiana State Nurse Assistance Program monitors nurses who have been identified as drug-dependent.

“Currently we have 425 nurses in active monitoring,” said ISNAP Program Director Chuck Lindquist. “We have 75 nurses in the intake process. So we have 500 nurses, which is less than 1 percent of the nursing population. So we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

Nurses who need drug treatment often go to a program at IU Health. They can, and do, return to work.

“If I needed help those are the nurses that I’d want taking care of me as much as any other nurse,” said James Ryser, IU Health’s pain and chemical dependency program manager. “Because once somebody is really, really treating their addiction, they are as good as anyone else, if not better in some ways.”

While many more nurses are addicted to alcohol, marijuana and painkillers, ISNAP says it has seen an increase recently in the use of heroin among nurses.

Published by: The Indy Channel

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