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Addiction Among Medical Professionals

Doctors are medical professionals sworn to the Hippocratic Oath. Medical professionals of all kinds are the heroes on the frontlines keeping us healthy and fighting diseases. But sometimes even heroes have struggles. Drug abuse among healthcare professionals is more common than you may think.

The stress from saving lives, seeing unthinkable acts, and dealing with illnesses and deaths can take a heavy toll on the medical professionals that treat and care for us. Sometimes medical professionals may take up substance use to deal with the hardships of their career. It is difficult for medical professionals to separate their professional life from their personal life.

It plays an integral role as to who they are outside of their white coat or scrubs. Some medical professionals take up substances such as alcohol, stimulants, opiates, and other narcotics to cope and feel better. They particularly enjoy opiates because of their easy accessibility as a doctor. But by negatively coping, they create an addiction in a field where addiction can lead to serious consequences.

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Why Do Medical Professionals Abuse Substances?

Some medical professionals abuse substances because of the stress they are placed every day. They are professionals of medicine, but even professionals can make mistakes. This places medical professionals under a tremendous amount of stress to strive for perfection. The consequences could be dangerous or lethal.

Many of them do have to deal with death, and that can be difficult to process. They may feel guilty in some way because the patient was in their care. Then they have to tell family members that their loved one has died. Medical professionals are also known to work many hours each day to save and care for people.

This could mean they may also have a poor work-life balance. This all can lead to drug abuse among healthcare professionals. It is possible many medical professionals do not get to spend as much time with their family they would like.

These stressors may cause burnout in their career and their personal life. Since medical professionals have access to medication, they see it as a way to alleviate the major amount of stress they are under. The most common drug abused by medical professionals is opiates. The misuse often turns into a substance use disorder.

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Most Common Drugs Abused by Medical Professionals

Medical professionals have easy access to drugs, especially in hospitals. Studies have found that the most common drug abused by medical professionals are opiates, such as Oxycontin or Hydrocodone. The next common drug abused are benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Klonopin.

These drugs are depressants which they often pair with alcohol, another depressant. This can relax them from a long and stressful day at work. So, they begin to self-administer these medications to themselves as a means of relaxing. But that relaxing soon escalates to drug addiction and dependency.

Some other medical professionals strive to enhance their work performance or to the energy and motivation to keep working. These medical professionals may abuse stimulants, such as cocaine, Adderall, and Ritalin. This will keep them alert and focused. But drug abuse always comes with health risks.

Signs of Substance Abuse in Medical Professionals

Many medical professionals are high-functioning substance abusers. They can carry out many of their duties while maintaining their substance abuse. This is not only dangerous to them but to the patients they treat. However, there are signs to spot substance abuse in medical professionals, including:

  • Irritability
  • Frequent absences from work
  • Falling asleep during work
  • Unexplained absences of long periods during work
  • Seeming more eager to access narcotics
  • The smell of alcohol on their breath or person
  • Loss of motivation
  • Unprofessional demeanor
  • Slurring
  • Manipulates the doctors that prescribe medications
  • Errors in work

Addiction in the Healthcare Workplace

Medical professionals are supposed to be sharp, accurate, and fast-acting. However, if they are abusing drugs, they are more likely to cause an accident, overlook important information, or neglect patients. The health of those they care for is in great jeopardy. Often, medical professionals will appear distracted while on the job, and they may leave suddenly without an excuse.

Not only does this slow down production but more importantly it can cost lives and the health of patients. The medical professional may be in denial about their addiction because they may feel embarrassed or that they have let people down. The pressure can lead them further into their substance use disorder.

It will become more difficult to try to receive help because they feel trapped and alone. Especially with the hardships of work weighing them down. It can be difficult to stand up for themselves and admit they have a problem with substances. But the sooner addicted medical professionals admit they need professional help, the sooner they can feel better.

Treatment for Medical Professionals

It may be difficult for medical professionals to admit they have a problem with substance use. Sometimes, their addiction overcomes their ability to hide it and they are forced to attend rehab. They are now on the other side of the table. They are used to helping others, and now they are the ones being helped.

Therapists are specifically trained to treat medical professionals and to understand what brought them to substance abuse and how they can become better. Some medical professionals also enter inpatient drug rehab. There they work with therapists, other doctors, and others in rehab so that they can receive an inclusive treatment that will work best for them. For medical professionals, they learn how to restore their credibility and career after their drug abuse problem.

A part of that includes accepting licensing repercussions and discipline. They will have to accept and cope with the effects of their drug abuse. They must find a therapeutic way to cope. They must also learn how to return to practicing medicine and to avoid the triggers that made them abuse drugs in the first place. They will also learn how to maintain their sobriety in the real world.

Recovering medical professionals will also continue to be a part of monitoring programs. After drug rehab is complete, the medical professional must make amends and put together their life again. This can be a particularly difficult part of the recovery process.

Types of Addiction Treatment for Medical Professionals

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Multidisciplinary Approach
  • Group Counseling
  • Individual Counseling
  • Aftercare Support
  • Caduceus Group
  • Relapse Prevention

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