Addiction Among Doctors and Nurses

Doctors should be more aware than anyone of the dangers of certain medications and the many ways that abusing them can be harmful. Despite all their knowledge on how to get and stay healthy, MDs and other healthcare providers are not immune from addiction and drug abuse.

A recent news report of a doctor and nurse overdosing served to highlight this alarming problem. An anesthesia trainee at a large university medical center nearly died after taking a dose of fentanyl. This happened just hours after a nurse in the same hospital overdosed and died from a combination of fentanyl and midazolam (also known by the brand name Versed).

High Stress & Healthcare

In the high-stress world of healthcare, some medical professionals resort to less than healthy ways to cope with the demands. The easy access to medications that provide quick fixes only exacerbates the problem, even though these doctors and nurses are acutely aware of the dangerous consequences and harmful side effects of this type of abuse.

In some cases, that knowledge can be a handicap as it can make some professionals believe they won’t get addicted or overdose because they’re know how to use the medications safely. Doctors aren’t above miscalculating a dose, though, especially when addiction demands more of a substance to reach the same high. Those who work in healthcare may find it easier to hide their substance abuse for longer periods of time too, adding to the danger. By the time their secret is discovered, it’s often too late.

Who Struggles with Addiction?

– Anesthesiologists
– Emergency Room Specialists
– Psychiatrists.

The drug and alcohol addiction rate among physicians and nurses is estimated to be between 10 and 14 percent, a number nearly identical to the general population. Of those medical professionals who struggle with addiction, three specialties show a notably higher rate than other areas: anesthesiologists, emergency room specialists and psychiatrists. And those in the know suggest that the drug use problem among anesthesiologists is worsening, while alcoholism is on the rise among all healthcare workers. The problem even has a starring role on the small screen, in the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. The picture painted by the show isn’t as dark as the reality, though.

Fortunately, there are programs for addicted healthcare workers, and they are effective, although relapse can and does happen. Addiction is a complex disease, and seeing those who can treat so many other serious medical issues fall prey to it only highlights just how difficult the battle is.

If you or someone you love needs treatment for an addiction and co-occurring disorder, call The Oaks at La Paloma at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.

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