Advice from Addicted Women to Nurses, Doctors, Medical Staff

Teresa Valliere, Crossroads for Women’s director of inpatient services, recently did a presentation on treating women with addictions. The audience was largely made up of nurses, physicians and other medical staff.

For her presentation, women in recovery were asked to share their wisdom about how medical staff might interact with them in medical encounters – whether they were in active addiction, contemplation stage, asking for help or in recovery. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Know the signs of addiction if my story doesn’t add up, if I look different
  • Ask me more questions
  • Ask to see me if I keep asking for refills
  • Don’t assume that I am not addicted by how I look – I know how to hide it
  • Don’t assume I am addicted by how I look
  • Know the resources to refer me for help and have the information in the office
  • Help me make the phone call if I can’t
  • Learn more about addiction
  • Talk to addicted people
  • Keep the conversation going
  • Ask personal questions in private, not in front of my family or other staff
  • Don’t assume I am tying to manipulate you just because I am addicted
  • Remember I have real pain too
  • Remember I am afraid to come out of hiding
  • If I hint that I have a problem, ask me more
  • If I tell you I am in recovery, I am afraid you won’t give me medication when I really need it
  • Don’t tell me just to stop, I already tried
  • Don’t judge me, I am ashamed enough already
  • Say something to me if I tell you something that is hard to talk about – like addiction, or trauma or my abusive relationship – like, “thank you for telling me, that must be hard to talk about”
  • Ask me more about me as a person, not just my problems
  • Make time to talk with me
  • Look me in the eyes
  • Use my name
  • If I am crying, hold my hand or say something kind
  • Challenge me if you think I am in active addiction
  • Remember that I thought pills were the answer to everything
  • Say no to more pills – but offer me an alternative
  • Don’t be pushed or blackmailed into giving more medication when your gut says no
  • Don’t take it personally if I tried to get medication from you in active addiction – It didn’t have anything to do with you – I would have done anything
  • Assist me in getting the help – like making a phone call – my brain is not working right
  • Drug test me; ask for a pill count
  • Talk straight to me about your concern of my addiction
  • Show some emotion, concern
  • Say something kind
  • Remember someone you love who is addicted when you are talking with me

Women are up to 48% more likely than men to be prescribed a narcotic, antianxiety or other potentially abusable drug [National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2001)]. You’d be surprised at how much a conversation in the doctor’s office might help an addicted woman.

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