Facts About Addictions Nursing

What Is Addictions Nursing?

To be an addictions nurse you will require a fairly thick skin as this kind of nursing often involves working with patients who are at your facility against their will. They have been sent there because they have an addiction of some kind, usually to drugs or alcohol, and they require assistance in overcoming the addiction. You will counsel the patient and their family through the recovery process and provide the support that they need.

Nature Of The Work/Duties

The main goal that you will have as an addictions nurse lies in promoting the recovery of your patients from their addiction, whatever that addiction may be. In addition to caring for the physical health needs of your patients and providing them with addictions therapy, you will also actively be involved in counseling your patients through the recovery process as well as educating both your patients and their families (as well as others who feel affected by substance abusers in their lives) regarding substance abuse and how dangerous it can be. As in a hospital setting you will be required to work closely with doctors, but unlike a hospital setting you will also be required to interact with public health organizations and social workers, as well as spending long periods of time with individual patients.


Addictions NursingNurses with a specialty in addictions nursing are employed in any setting where there are a number of patients who have an addiction problem. The environment can be somewhat fast paced and does not suit everyone. It can also be dangerous as addicts will often do whatever it takes to get their next dose of the drug that they are on. Consequently the most popular places for addictions nurses to be employed tend to be in:

  • Hospitals: This is the least common employment option, but addictions nurses are often required in areas where addicts appear at a hospital frequently.
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Correctional Facilities: New inmates may require detoxification and will need medical attention and emotional support through this process. This is one of the more dangerous locations to be employed in.

Addictions Nursing Requirements

As with any profession there are a number of requirements that you will need to meet before you will be able to become certified officially as an addictions nurse. The first requirement is that you have an RN license. Consequently, if you are only an LPN at this point in time, you will need to enter an RN degree program in order to become certified. There are several bridge programs available to facilitate this change. Secondly you will need to gain a certain amount of experience (the exact amount can differ from state to state) in addictions nursing. This can be done by applying for jobs at rehabilitation centers and correctional facilities. Last but not least you need to become a Certified Addiction Registered Nurses (CARN), a qualification which is approved by The National Nurses Society on Addictions (NNSA).

Personality Traits

The following personality traits are the cornerstones for making a success out of your career as an addictions nurse:

  • To be a successful addictions nurse you must be hard working
  • To be a successful addictions nurse you must be sympathetic
  • To be a successful addictions nurse you must be non-judgmental
  • To be a successful addictions nurse you must be patient
  • To be a successful addictions nurse you must be thick skinned

Sympathetic and thick-skinned may be the two most important personality traits to have as an addictions nurse. The real skill lies in finding the appropriate balance between the two without leaning too heavily on one or the other in your daily dealings with addicts as well as with their families. If you lack these traits, perhaps you should consider an alternative career.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements are as mentioned above: You need to have completed an RN degree course, which can be done at a community college, vocational school, university, and even some hospitals (there are also a number of online options, although you must be careful with theses). In addition you need the CARN certification. The theory knowledge that you will need for the CARN certification will include things like Addiction in Children‚ the Workplace and Cultures, Addiction Therapies, Biochemical Basis of Addiction, Care of Patients with Addictions, Diagnosis and Treatment of Patients with Substance Related Disorders, Drug Abuse‚ Withdrawal and Pain Management, Eating Disorders and Addiction, Elderly and Incarcerated with Addictions, and Impulse Control Addictions as well as several other topics that will be covered in specific courses.


The license that you need to hold in order to be an addictions nurse is your RN license. There are a few fairly basic (but not necessarily easy) steps that you can follow to earn this license:

  • Firstly you need to complete one of the RN training degree programs.
  • Secondly, once you have successfully completed both the theory and clinical work that the program entails, you must apply for licensure with your state board of nursing, adhering to any state-specific requirements involved.
  • Then y9u can set a date to take the NCLEX-RN exam administered by Pearson Vue for a fee of $200.
  • Once you have passed the exam your state board of nursing will issue you with a license.
  • The license must be renewed periodically in order to continue practicing as an RN.

How To Become An Addictions Nurse

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

An important training stipulation for addictions nursing is that you receive the necessary hands-on experience in order to prove your expertise in the domain of addictions nursing. Too do this you must engage in an internship at a facility that your school or college approves which could include a treatment center, psychiatric unit, or hospital detoxification center. As with most other nursing qualifications you cannot become registered in a certain specialty unless you can show that you are able to perform the duties of a nurse in that capacity in clinical setting.

In addition to this you must have a nursing degree. Before you can enter an internship of the kind mentioned above the facility where you will intern will need to see proof of your nursing degree, so this is not something that can be voided or skipped.

Source An Accredited Education Program

The RN degree that you earn must be from a school that has the appropriate accreditation. This accreditation will ensure that the degree you earn will be recognized and that your degree will count for something. If the school is not accredited you will:

  • Waste your time
  • Waste your money

This is because you will be required to begin your program again from scratch at a different school, and you are unlikely to receive a refund form the school that you have already attended. The best source of information regarding whether or not a program is appropriately accredited is form your state board of nursing. Generally you are able to find a list of accredited RN programs on the website of your state’s board. In addition you can make specific enquiries with them.

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

There are a number of steps that you will need to take in order to earn your associate’s degree in nursing:

  • Firstly you will need to look into what schools and colleges in your area offer the associate’s degree in nursing.
  • Consider the amount of time that it will take and look into the fees to ensure that you have the time and resources required to devote yourself to the program.
  • Look into online degree options as there are several available.
  • Complete the theoretical and clinical training involved in the associate’s degree.
  • When you graduate from this degree program by completing all of the necessary tasks you will have earned your associate’s degree and can move on to becoming licensed in addictions nursing and addictions nursing.

Obtain Your Licensure

As mentioned previously the only license you really need to be an addictions nurse is your RN license. However you should become certified as an addictions nurse in this field in order to better your chances of being employed in the future. The Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN) qualification is the one you will need for this purpose. To qualify you must have a current RN license with no limitations on it. In addition you will need to provide proof that, at some point in the 3 years preceding your application for the addictions nursing certification exam you completed one year or 2000 hours of clinical experience in an addictions nursing setting. If you have the license as well as the necessary experience, you will be able to write the exam and become certified.

Online/Distance Education Programs

The Certified Addiction Registered Nurses (CARN) exam can be studied for online as there are numerous online resources that you will find after a very cursory search of the internet. Studying online has a number of advantages, including the following:

  • You will not be tied down by a school schedule
  • You can work in your own time at your own pace
  • These programs are often cheaper than classroom based programs

However it must be kept in mind that in order to become an addictions nurse you must complete the necessary number of practical hours of experience, and this simply cannot be done online. In one sense, then, it is not possible to complete your studies for this nursing specialty entirely online and you will have to intern at a brick and mortar institution.

Job Outlook

The health care sector is one of the sectors that have the strongest job outlooks at present because, even when the economy is bad and other sectors across the board experiences declines, the health care sector keeps on going strong because it will always be needed. The nursing industry itself is growing by 22%. With a specialization of any kind, such as a specialization in addictions nursing, your skills will be in even higher demand. There is also less competition for this line of nursing than for several other lines, so you will be able to find a job uncontested fairly frequently. In addition your general nursing training will also allow you to apply for jobs in regular nursing settings where a specialization in nursing is not a prerequisite for employment at that facility.


Salaries for addictions nurses can vary widely depending on:

  • Company
  • Location
  • Industry
  • Experience
  • Benefits

Consequently only the most general of figures can be supplied for how much you can expect to earn as an addictions nurse. For one thing you will probably earn substantially more than a regular RN. A regular RN can earn something in the region of $45,000 a year, while and addictions nurse can earn $30,000 more than that, bringing the projected total to $75,000. However this is not a set amount and you will find that there are huge differences based on the factors previously mentioned. You will have to compare jobs in your own area to determine what the average salary is that you can expect to earn as an addictions nurse with your level of education and experience.

You can earn a higher salary in this area of nursing than in many others, but this is not the reason why people choose to become addictions nurses. The main reason why people become nurses in any field is that they want to help others and they have a natural predisposition to being caring and empathetic. There may be a slightly higher level of danger in this area of nursing, especially if you work in a setting such as a prison, but the same rules of nursing apply: you are there, first and foremost, to assist your patient on the road to recovery in any way that you can, professionally speaking.

Leave a Reply