Managing Substance Use Disorder in Acute Care: Joint Guidance Document

When a person with a substance use disorder arrives at hospital, it represents a critical opportunity. The symptoms of a substance use disorder do not end upon admission, and substance use will often continue. This can pose challenges for patients, hospital clinical teams and employees.

Substance use-related health issues remain a public health and health service crisis in Canada, particularly in Alberta. Turning the tide on this issue requires the concerted, evidence-based and compassionate efforts of all healthcare providers.

The Guidance Document on the Management of Substance Use in Acute Care was designed to be a focused, point-of-care resource to support the evidence-informed care of people who use alcohol, methamphetamine and/or opioids when they are admitted to hospital.

Guidance Document on Management of Substance Use in Acute Care

The document was jointly drafted by 28 authors and an Advisory Committee comprised of 26 expert stakeholders with the mandate to create an Alberta-based resource to support effective acute care for hospital inpatients who use alcohol, opioids and methamphetamines.

The Advisory Committee included people with lived/living experience (PWLE); front-line care providers; addiction specialists; a public health specialist; a medical ethicist; health administrators; and the following medical, nursing and pharmacy regulatory colleges:

  • College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA)
  • College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA)
  • College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Alberta (CRPNA)
  • College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta (CLPNA)
  • Alberta College of Pharmacy (ACP)

While patients admitted to acute care may use a variety of legal and illegal substances, the Guidance Document focuses specifically on approaches and interventions for alcohol, stimulants, and opioids—commonly used substances that are challenging for patients and staff.

The CLPNA encourages Alberta’s Licensed Practical Nurses to use the evidence-informed document to support their professional nursing judgement in practice.

According to the Advisory Committee, this is believed to be the first document of its kind in Canada.

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For questions, please contact the CLPNA’s Professional Practice Team at Ask CLPNA,, 780-484-8886 or 1-800-661-5877 (toll-free in Alberta).