Drug and alcohol detox

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I consider myself very fortunate to be in an occupation where I am able to learn and experience a seemingly endless amount of medical specialties while still being a nurse.

The most recent “new specialty” for me is drug and alcohol detox. Working in a jail presents a great opportunity to learn this, as one might imagine. Especially a jail located in the middle of “sin city.” I did not realize how vulnerable a patient could be when a patient’s constant consumption of alcohol was abruptly ended. The vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and overall feelings of malaise and sickness are symptoms that are very hard to watch another human go through. I have learned the importance of keeping these individuals on medications like Librium that keep the CNS depressed. It made so much sense to me when the doctors on staff explained to the new nurses the importance of allowing the patients time to adjust accelerated levels of function that non-alcoholics are normally accustomed. With the reading material, and verbal instruction that my employer has provided my assessment skills and understanding of this disease process has greatly improved. I now am able to assess acutely detoxing patients of tachycardia, and tremors that require immediate intervention due to the possibility of inadequate medications.

I am still probably a little more ignorant of drug detoxification. Our facility does not currently treat patients who are merely drug addicts. The only protocols for them are assessment of vital signs and/or neuro checks, rarely with any medications prescribed. My understanding of why this is; those detoxing from drugs are less likely to die. I would like to see my facility designate housing specifically for both alcohol and drug detoxing. So, nursing staff most familiar with this process can be assigned to monitory for signs of patients becoming unstable.

I myself will continue to ask questions about this subject when at work. I find it a very intriguing subject in nursing, and would suggest the same to any nurse to understand it better. Because it dose not matter if you are an ER nurse managing the care of a teenager that has overdosed, or a psych nurse taking care of a drug induced schizophrenic, drugs and alcohol affect all of us in the medical field.

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