An ICU Nurse on Alternatives to Opioid Painkillers

Nurse Janice Dennis, who lost one son to opioids and saw another struggle for years with addiction, brings the lessons she learned from those experiences into the ICU.


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Hello Guideposts. My name is Janice Dennis; I’m a registered nurse. I’ve been a registered nurse for 22 years.

What people should know, who take opioid medications, is that they can be deadly and have serious side effects that diminish their quality of life, and if taken for a long period of time, it’s like a circling drain. It just gets worse and worse, and they become more and more addicted. 

The best way to lessen the chance of becoming addicted is not to get started in taking the opioids in the first place. And always remember what I always tell my patients, less is best, and to seek out alternative means, like chiropracty, physical therapy, dance, exercise, stretching, white willow bark and keep people free from pain and still lead a quality life.

In the ICU I see a lot of overdoses coming in and it’s on a daily basis. If it’s not from prescribed drugs, it’s from the street.

As a nurse, I’ve always had a strong purpose in my field, but since this has happened personally, with my son and even other family members and friends that have lost their loved ones, I have a special insight to offer families.

When I get a family member in the ICU or a patient that was close to death—they almost died and their family is at their bedside crying, and they’re fighting and praying for God to revive their life—and so it’s at that time that I can offer them hope. And some of them don’t make it, just as my son didn’t make it, but I always remember and I offer them the hope that, when we do get to heaven, we’ll see them again.

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