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Medical Professionals and Substance Abuse

Those in the healthcare profession constantly offer us golden advice on how to improve our lives – better eating habits, more exercise, less smoking and drinking and sodium. We look to doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to guide us towards comprehensive physical health. However, this doesn’t mean that those in this specific field are immune to struggling with health-related issues themselves. Rates of substance abuse are much higher amongst medical professionals than they are amongst members of the general public, especially when it comes to opioid abuse and addiction. There are many serious problems that can occur when a medical professional struggles with an untreated substance abuse disorder, especially when they are actively providing medical services to others.

Studies that have been conducted within the US over time have shown that an average of 10 to 15 percent of all medical professionals will misuse chemical substances at least once during their careers. Studies also show that the rates of prescription painkiller abuse are five times higher amongst healthcare workers than they are amongst members of the general population. Although doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers do have increased access to potent prescription medications (another reason why rates of drug abuse are so high) they also struggle with alcohol abuse. A recent study conducted in Texas (by the Texas Board of Nursing) confirmed that one-third of all disciplinary actions revolving around substance abuse directly involved alcohol. If you work in the medical field and you have been struggling with substance abuse or addiction, know that you are not alone – and that help is available. We at Chapel Hill will do everything we can to get you started on the road to addiction recovery, and get back to your career as quickly as we can without compromising our quality of care.

Why is Substance Abuse So Common Amongst Healthcare Professionals?

There are many different theories as to why healthcare professionals struggle with drug addiction and alcoholism at such significant rates. Some of these reasons include:

  • Physicians have access to medication. Prescribing physicians can easily self-prescribe, seeing as they have access to prescription notebooks, etc. They also often have access to the medications themselves, especially those who work in a hospital setting where medications are kept on-site. Several studies found that close to 90 percent of prescribing physicians have written prescriptions for themselves at least once. Other studies suggest that over 55 percent of medical professionals with a prescription actually wrote it themselves.
  • Work-related stress can trigger self-medication. Healthcare professionals work long hours, often lack sleep, and are exposed to severe trauma on a daily or near-daily basis. Of course, those on this career path are also responsible for the well-being of others, and experience a great amount of pressure. Having the lives of others in your hands is certainly not an easy thing to deal with on an emotional or psychological level. It is believed that many men and women in this specific field turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication – they use chemical substances in order to combat the immense levels of stress they face around the clock. It is important to remember that substance abuse is a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and that while drugs and alcohol may temporarily leave stress they will exacerbate underlying issues over time.
  • Problems at home. Medical professionals who work long hours and have to take on a lot of night shifts are likely to experience interpersonal problems. They might have a spouse who grows jealous or insecure – in fact, infidelity is not uncommon amongst the spouses of healthcare workers. It can also be extremely difficult for those in the medical field to spend long hours away from their families. Emergency room doctors, for example, might only spend a few hours with their families every week, devoting the majority of their time to their careers. Because of this, family therapy is often necessary. We at Chapel Hill offer a variety of services for the family members of those struggling with substance abuse. If you believe your loved one may have a substance abuse disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.

Substance Abuse Treatment for Healthcare Professionals

Sadly, many healthcare professionals do not seek the treatment they need and deserve for fear of being “found out” and harshly criticized by their colleagues – or losing their positions entirely. It is also true that those in the medical field are often highly functioning alcoholics or drug addicts, meaning that they still show up to work on time and carry out their assigned tasks whether or not they are under the influence. There are also many traits that medical professionals have in common – traits that tend to contribute to their overall success in the medical field. Obviously, being in such a position requires a great amount of schooling, which in turn requires a great deal of commitment and persistence. Medical professionals tend to hold themselves to extremely high standards, and many are perfectionists. It is also true that men and women in this specific field are extremely independent and self-reliant, assuming that they should be able to successfully tackle any personal issues that arise on their own, without assistance. While these are generally admirable and non-harmful traits, they can be detrimental when it comes to alcoholism or drug addiction. It is important that those in the medical field truly understand the implications of addiction, and grasp the fact that there is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help. Some things cannot be tackled without help.

On the bright side of things, healthcare professionals that enter into a long-term program of recovery have lower rates of relapse than members of the general population. Studies show that sticking to a personalized treatment plan helps reduce the risk of relapse, and helps those who once struggled go on to live happy, healthy, and rewarding lives. If you or someone close to you has been struggling with addiction – whether or not they are in the medical field – we are available to help. Simply give us a call today and we’ll help you develop a plan to get immersed in recovery as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Chapel Hill and Addiction Recovery

At Chapel Hill we understand how important it is for those in the medical field to maintain anonymity when seeking inpatient treatment, or drug addiction treatment of any kind. We work hard to keep your journey of addiction treatment confidential, and we do everything we can to help you get back to your career promptly without compromising the quality of treatment. As a medical professional, you might feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. How can you truly help others if you aren’t helping yourself? Remember that the disease of addiction does not discriminate, and that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are actually at a greater risk of drug abuse and alcoholism than men and women on any other career path. We understand what a high-stress job you have, and we’re dedicated to teaching you all of the healthy coping skills you need in order to stay sober for years to come. For more information on our comprehensive and confidential program of addiction recovery, please feel free to give us a call at your earliest convenience. We look forward to speaking with you soon and answering every question you might have.

   Call us today. 844.526.0032

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