Addiction Amongst Medical Providers

Substance Use Disorder among Medical Providers

Society looks to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals for guidance regarding good health and life-saving medical intervention, placing them in high regard. Still, these healthcare workers are human, and due to the nature of their professions, they may experience sleep deprivation and extreme stress from constant exposure to death and trauma. Like others who struggle with hardship, some may turn to substance misuse to self-medicate, potentially leading to addiction. It’s imperative for healthcare workers who may have substance use disorder to receive treatment because their careers and other people’s lives could be at risk, but the stigma of addiction can cause many to deny or hide their drug or substance misuse out of shame and fear.

Are Healthcare Workers prone to Addiction?

Working in the medical field, especially as a doctor or nurse, requires rigorous schooling, testing, and proof of expertise to become a professional. People spend upwards of ten years preparing to fill their roles as medical providers, understanding that their careers in medicine will significantly impact people and institutions. While many of these pressures prepare medical professionals for the stress of their jobs, there is no way to override natural human needs and emotions, regardless of how dedicated someone is to their work in healthcare. It’s estimated that about 10%-15% of healthcare professionals misuse drugs or alcohol throughout their careers. Long shifts, lack of sleep, witnessing suffering and loss, and being surrounded by and having access to potent prescription medications can push some to cope with their problems with substance misuse. Other risk factors include:

  • Frequent alcohol use in social situations after shifts to “blow off steam” among colleagues
  • Little time for personal life and hobbies due to a hectic schedule causing isolation or loneliness
  • Seeking out “performance-enhancing drugs” to help with long shifts and lack of sleep
  • Feeling immune to addictive side effects of drugs due to expertise
  • Genetic or early life exposure causing an increased predisposition to addiction
  • Untreated psychiatric illnesses due to fear of losing medical practice licensing
  • Ample free samples of medications given by medical sales reps
  • Curiosity to experience psychoactive medicines that are regularly administered to patients

Dangers of Untreated Addiction among Medical Providers

There are many obvious concerns surrounding healthcare workers who juggle an active addiction at work. While some may ingest substances on the job to ward off debilitating withdrawal symptoms, it can still cause devastating damage to patients like misdiagnosis, botched surgical procedures, and improper administration of medication dosages, sometimes leading to fatal outcomes. Beyond the negative consequences that patients may face, healthcare workers who deny or ignore their addiction may face severe fines, loss of license, and career-ending loss of pay if caught working under the influence or engaging in illicit substance misuse even outside of work.

Addiction Treatment for Medical Professionals

Healthcare workers are held to higher standards than in most other careers, which can sometimes cause them to delay addressing their substance use disorder. The fear of ruining a profession they’ve worked so hard to achieve can place them in a moral dilemma that puts their Hippocratic Oath in peril as they consider their options. While the predicament is devastating, research indicates that medical workers tend to respond well to treatment, showing some of the highest success rates.

Middlesex Recovery is proud to offer specialized substance use disorder treatment for those who need it most. Every office-based outpatient facility provides patients with the tools they need to reach long-term recovery from addiction in a private and judgment-free environment. Call or message a local Middlesex Recovery office today to learn more.