Alcohol use: what to do when a coping mechanism becomes a serious problem

Don't let stigma or fear stop you from accessing the support you need

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When does having a drink to unwind at the end of the day become a serious problem? And if you were to identify as having a dependency, would you feel able to seek help?

Charities and organisations supporting people with alcohol and substance misuse report an increase in nurses and doctors using their services over the past two years.

They say this is partially, and unsurprisingly, due to the pandemic. The results of our own well-being survey will be published in the new year, showing the proportion of nurses using alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Nurses are not superhuman – they can have problems, too

Just like with mental health conditions, addiction experts believe many health professionals aren’t seeking help due to stigma and fear of losing their jobs. Kenny Brady, a nurse and volunteer with recovery charity Kennedy Street, talks in our article on alcohol and substance misuse about the false sense among many nurses that they are above having health issues.

This is sadly illustrative of the misconception propagated during the pandemic of nurses being superhuman or heroic – problem-solvers, not ordinary people with problems. It’s not been helpful in the fight for fair pay and neither is it good for nurses’ health. Nurses should be able to access the help they need without fear of judgement or, worse still, reprisal.

Make use of support services – help is out there

Many staff with addictions do not feel comfortable seeking work-based support, though some employers have specific help for such problems.

Other services are available and our article includes details of these, alongside questions for nurses to ask themselves if they think they may have a problem with alcohol or drug misuse.

Christmas is approaching and for those staff who aren’t working it may be a time to let off steam. It can also be a season where problems heighten – and that’s why we’re signposting help for those in need.