Treatment Options for Professionals

Substance abuse affects millions of Americans and their families each year. In fact, 8.6 percent of Americans aged 12 and older needed treatment for alcohol or drug abuse in 2013, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).1

Addiction affects people from all walks of life, including high-earning professionals. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that between 2008 and 2012, 9.5 percent of Americans who were employed full-time also suffered from a substance abuse disorder.2

Business man in stressHigh-stress jobs, deadlines, rigorous schedules and an increasing feeling of the need to get and stay ahead may lead working professionals to turn to substance abuse. Particularly at risk may be physicians who have regular access to narcotics and other addictive prescription drugs. Ten to 15 percent of physicians struggle with substance abuse due in part to the availability of narcotic drugs.3 Although anesthesiologists are a small section of physicians, they have extremely high rates of addiction due to the stress of the job as well as the easy access to the preferred drugs of abuse. Also, returning to work is a risk factor for relapse after treatment because the work environment necessitates being around narcotics.4

Patterns of substance abuse may go unnoticed for longer in professionals—like pilots, lawyers and business people—than the general public due to an intense fear of being discovered and losing privileges, relationships, jobs or status, which may lead to increased secrecy and hiding addiction. Addiction is often socially stigmatized, and professionals may go to great lengths to avoid detection until they hit rock bottom, through circumstances like an overdose, legal trouble, loss of a job, loss of personal relationships or an accident. Families, coworkers, and loved ones may stage an intervention in order to help coerce their loved one to enter treatment and begin working towards recovery. Addiction is a highly treatable brain disease, and in particular, treatment for professionals is designed to facilitate recovery and promote a return to everyday life, including the home and workplace.


Comprehensive Treatment Methods

Working professionals are generally concerned with missing work and not being able to fulfill job-related obligations. Depending on the level of dependency and support of their community, some professionals may be able to remain at home and continue working during outpatient treatment, attending counseling, therapy, and 12-Step support group meetings in the evenings or outside of work hours.

Support groups exist for all different types of professionals and substance users, and it is important to find a group where you can connect. These groups should be filled with people who can relate to your specialized circumstances. Examples of peer support groups include:

  • International Doctors in Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Caduceus groups or meetings for health care professionals
  • Birds of a Feather International for pilots or airline crewmembers
  • AA groups for law enforcement members

For most, a comprehensive approach that includes a residential treatment program is likely to be the most successful model. Treatment may begin with detox, which is the process of ridding the body of drugs and alcohol. After detox is complete, treatment can begin. Group and individual therapies address issues unique to professionals and related to substance abuse and addiction, such as maintaining or regaining professional licenses, handling patients or access to prescription medications. Coping mechanisms and new life skills are taught in an effort to help professionals learn to manage the stressors of high-pressure jobs in a positive manner as well as maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life. Many treatment centers also offer great support for the unique challenges of returning to the professional world.

Along with the unique services for professionals, traditional treatment modalities will also be employed, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)to improve self-esteem and regain a healthy emotional balance. Special care is also given to co-occurring disorders. Substance abuse may exacerbate depression or other mood disorders, and both the addiction and the mental illness need to be managed at the same time by a team of medical professionals working together towards recovery.

Continuing Care and Recovery

To return to work, professionals are often required to undergo detailed evaluations to determine their readiness for reintegration. Different states and professions may have specific rules or guidelines for impaired professionals returning to work. For instance, random drug testing and monitoring may be required for several months after returning to the workforce or patients may live in transitional housing after inpatient care before returning home. These recovery communities are less structured than residential rehab and act as a go-between before fully integrating back into everyday life.

Relapse prevention is an important part of the follow-up and aftercare for professionals in recovery. Peer and family support groups are imperative throughout treatment and recovery. Addiction fosters isolation, and positive support networks can help provide a sense of belonging. By continuing in aftercare options like 12-step programs, professions decrease the likelihood of relapse and increase quality of life for years to come.

Substance abuse and dependency affect people of all races, genders, cultures, ages, and professions. Regardless of your personal situation, The Oaks at La Paloma has a treatment plan to suit your individual circumstances. Please call our admissions coordinator today at 901-350-4575 to get a free, confidential assessment. We want to help you begin healing today!

1Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.” SAMHSA. 2013. Web. Accessed 28 August 2017.

210.8 Million Full-Time Workers Have a Substance Use Disorder.” SAMHSA. 7 August 2014. Web. Accessed 28 August 2017.

3 Grinspoon, P. “Up to 15% of doctors are drug addicts. I was one of them.” Los Angeles Times, 5 June 2016. Web. Accessed 28 August 2017.

4 Wright, E. L., et al., “Opioid Abuse Among Nurse Anesthetists and Anesthesiologists.”American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal.April 2012.Web. Accessed 28 August 2017.