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Pill-Popping Nurse Gets a Second Chance

An imprisoned nurse who pilfered pills to feed her growing habit is back at her old job.


It isn't hard for nurses to obtain controlled
drugs. Thinkstock

By Fionna Agomuoh


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An Idaho nurse who used her job to facilitate her own prescription drug abuse for years—and spent a brief spell in jail—has now got her nursing license back. And she's speaking publicly about her second chance. Mother-of-two Dedra Butler, from Idaho Falls, graduated from teenage alcohol and marijuana use to abusing painkillers and Valium in her 20s. As a nurse, she found it easy to obtain her drugs: "I decided to use [my doctor's] DEA number and start calling in my own pills.” At that time, Butler felt she had her drug use under control: "I'm a nurse. I knew what was wrong with me... I was in denial,” she says. Years later, realizing she was a full-blown addict, she considered suicide. But a "higher power spiritual event" prompted her to go to the hospital instead, she recalls—and to turn herself in. Because of her cooperation, she spent only seven days in jail and had her nursing license revoked. And her children weren't taken from her, as she feared. Today, coming up to three years clean and due to get married in the summer, Butler has had her nursing license reinstated—just as long as she sticks to the five-year recovery plan stipulated by her employers. “I am a completely different person,” she says. “A person has to ultimately say to themselves in their heart, ‘I'm done. I've had enough, and I'll do what it takes to get better.’”

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