Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


'The consequences of addiction are most definitely a healthcare issue'


If I were to ask you if you thought those who are dependent on substances and members of their family were subjected to negativity from some healthcare professionals, what would your honest answer be?

I would love to answer this with “no way” but unfortunately I have heard it, seen it and been subjected to it when caring for a loved one who was experiencing addiction.

The thing is I don’t believe that it is borne out of malice but a lack of understanding.

If you’ve not personally experienced the effects of addiction how can you grasp the feelings of desperation, guilt, anger, and heartbreak? And let’s be honest, individuals experiencing addiction are often seen as challenging because of their behaviour, which I believe some professionals find difficult to understand and empathise with.

I have been aware of the effects of addiction from an early age.

Sadly I have seen people from my childhood die from drug addiction and lived in a home where I came second, third and fourth place to it. This experience has certainly been a factor in my career choice and I applied to do my nurse training with the ambition that eventually I will specialise in substance misuse.

For my 3rd year sign-off placement I’ve been placed at a centre for individuals experiencing addiction. This is a first for my university campus and the first time the centre has taken an adult branch student nurse.

It is often assumed that only mental health nurses practice in substance misuse, for this placement that is not the case.

From a student point of view the opportunity to work closely with mental health nurses has been invaluable for gaining extra knowledge and will enhance my overall development.

It is important that as a profession we realise that we can all play a part in recovery despite our area of practice. Recognising the signs of addiction, referring patients to the correct services are steps that can be taken throughout the healthcare system. Also acknowledging that more education and exposure in this area is required will be another positive step forward.

After all, it is very likely that we will all encounter an individual experiencing addiction at some point in our career!

My reality is that not every client I see will complete the programme or stay abstinent afterwards.

I hope that those people will not be dismissed and will be given the encouragement and the opportunity to keep trying, if they wish to do so. The positives of working in this area are that so many clients have the potential to experience life addiction free and will achieve this.

It will be hard and a journey that will not be taken lightly, I believe this deserves respect from healthcare professionals.     

Unfortunately the age-old argument as to whether addiction is an illness or a lifestyle choice will always hang over the care of these people. Whatever your opinion the fact is that the consequences of addiction are most definitely a healthcare issue and should be treated as such; deserving of the same compassion and care that would be given to any patient.

Maybe my personal experience has allowed me a little more understanding of substance misuse, I intend to use this and help clients and their families.

You see, I know how it feels for your heart to break as you watch a person you love destroy themselves.

But I also know that the heart can be rebuilt as you witness your loved one enter recovery and rebuild their life. Now 13 years substance free, living a happy and successful life.

There is always hope, we just need to offer it to those who need it.

Leanne Siekiera is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for adult branch


Watch Leanne’s poem : What do you see nurse?


Readers' comments (2)

  • This is great!

    I am a first year (almost 2nd year) MH student nurse and also hope to work in and specialise in substance use when I qualify.

    I have first hand experience of addiction and recovery and fully believe that it is an issue which should be covered more in education across all branches of nursing.

    Like many other issues it cuts through the confines of adult nursing, child nursing, mental health nursing or learning disabilities nursing.

    I am glad you enjoyed your placement - I seek experience of working with substance users in any area as it does not discriminate age, gender, economic status or anything else really. So interesting and it is the case that 'recovery' is different for everyone.

    Don't pre-judge someone, so important to remember that there will have been reasons for their current circumstances.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Hi Timothy

    Thank you for your comments . It is good to find someone else who has an interest in this area.

    Totally agree that we should be covering substance misuse in all branches of nursing;would make a massive difference to the care that is provided.

    Hope your course goes well ! Keep in touch and let me know how it goes

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs