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The Drug Use And Opioid Addiction

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Nurses today are likely to encounter patients who are intravenous drug users at some point in their career. The United States is in the midst of a rampant heroin/opioid epidemic which currently claims 91 lives a day to overdose (CDC, 2016). As nurses we have a unique opportunity to provide compassionate and impactful health care to the most marginalized groups of our society. Harm Reduction is a public health approach to intravenous drug use/opioid addiction which strives to reduce the harm of risky behaviors associated with illicit drug use. Nurses who implement harm reduction into practice have a powerful opportunity to educate patients on preventing the transmission of disease, vein care, and available resources within the community.…show more content…
The primary mission of harm reduction proponents is to reduce the risks and harmful effects of drug use rather than ignore or condemn them, advocate on behalf of users for equal rights, and change policies that maximize harm within this community. Nurses are often the first health care providers to interact with marginalized groups such as intravenous drug users, making these interactions and first impressions very powerful tools. Unfortunately stigma and discrimination towards illicit drug users is still widespread within mainstream society. Negative experiences with health care providers reduce the likelihood that these patients will seek care in the future. When a patient is treated judgmentally and with discrimination based on their drug use, they are likely to internalize negative attitudes leading to feelings of worthlessness and depression, resulting in poorer health and personal hygiene (Bartlett, 2013). Respect and rapport builds a trusting relationship between the nurse and patient which opens the door for more effective health care. A condescending attitude from a nurse has the potential to discourage patients from ever seeking health care again (Bartlett, 2013). Rather than disapproving of the life choices of patients, we must understand that each person is shaped by different social determinants such as abuse, debilitating injury or grief, and that each patient is doing the best they know how
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