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The Addiction Epidemic in the Medical Community
This article discusses how even doctors and nurses are prone to drug and alcohol addiction.
As the opioid and addiction epidemic continues to ravage the United States, a topic few people tend to think about is how this epidemic directly impacts doctors. A study by Statista states that there were well over half a million active physicians in 2017 in the United States alone.
While we depend on these doctors to administer life-saving medical procedures on us, some of them may very well be under the influence of alcohol, or even oopioids
On average, one in 10 Americans seems to have some sort of substance abuse disorder. As small as this number may seem, a large percentage of those suffering are doctors. Going back to Statista's report, approximately 10-15 percent of these doctors seem to be suffering from a substance abuse disorder. This is further discussed below.
In a 2013 study conducted by the University of Florida, an estimated 10-15 percent of doctors developed a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. This is no surprise, as the demands and stress that come with saving people's lives on a daily basis are enormous. Add on varying night-time and day-time hours, the stress and mental toll of diagnosing a wide array of illnesses, as well as dealing with death on a constant basis, and you have a perfect formula for substance abuse. See, the average doctor in the ER department of a hospital can work 10 12-hour shifts, as well as a few six-hour shifts over the course of a month. These long shifts can definitely take a toll on one's physical and mental health. Most of these doctors have incredibly easy access to painkillers, tranquilizers, and other powerful drugs. One can see how this could easily lead to a substance abuse problem.
The Journal of Addiction Medicine published a study from Lisa Merlo, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Florida’s Center for Addiction Research and Education, detailing why the physicians they surveyed misused prescription medication. At least one doctor reported that they began to self-medicate after a bout with sinusitis, eventually using narcotics to help relieve their anxiety. Another unnamed doctor reported that they turned to using prescription drugs to tune-out marital stress. This study seems to show that at least a few physicians turn to prescription medications for some of the same reasons non-medical persons do.
To take this topic even further, as recently as 2014, one out of every 10 nurses in the United States seemed to also be battling some sort of substance abuse disorder. With nurses facing many of the same mental and physical hurdles that doctors face, it is no surprise that addiction would also affect the nursing community.
With the United States becoming more understanding of drug addiction, many states now offer treatment plans and rehabilitation for medical professionals looking to overcome their addiction. There is hope.
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