Substance use disorder (SUD), also known as addiction, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a complex, chronic brain disorder. It is characterized by the “inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships and a dysfunctional emotional response.” The prevalence of substance abuse and SUD varies by occupation and industry. Healthcare professionals account for some of the highest rates of substance use disorder in the workforce. According to USA Today, “Across the country, more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, technicians, and other health professionals struggle with abuse or addiction, mostly involving Narcotics such as Oxycodone and Fentanyl.”
- Stigma: Individuals struggling with addiction may delay pursuing treatment because of the stigma associated with substance abuse and the potential impact on one’s professional reputation and licensure. Implementing accessible support programs specifically designed for healthcare professionals can help alleviate the fear of professional repercussions. For example, in 2001, the American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Nurses was revised to specifically address impaired practice: “Nurses must be vigilant to protect the patient, the public, and the profession from potential harm when a colleague’s practice, in any setting, appears to be impaired.” The code requires that nurses extend compassion and caring to colleagues in recovery and are obliged to act in a way that both protects patients and helps the impaired nurse receive assistance in recovery.
- Drug access: Healthcare professionals have direct access to medications, making it easier for them to misuse or divert prescription drugs. For example, though professionally discouraged, self-diagnosing physicians have reported prescribing controlled substances for themselves. Findings from one study indicate that “due to drug access, a significant number of pharmacists tend to self-medicate and titrate their drug use, a practice that can perpetuate the fallacy that pharmacological knowledge of drug action is an effective strategy to prevent addiction.” Implementing strict medication management protocols, ensuring accountability, and monitoring systems, and promoting a culture of ethical prescribing and medication handling can help reduce the risk of substance misuse.
- High-stress work environment: Along with their unpredictable and exhausting work hours, medical professionals are required to make impromptu decisions regarding their patients’ health and well-being, which can be emotionally draining. The demanding nature of their work can lead to burnout, emotional exhaustion, and increased vulnerability to substance abuse. Healthcare professionals can benefit from prioritizing work-life balance and developing healthy coping mechanisms (e.g., exercise, meditation, therapy, etc.) to manage the stress and demands of their jobs.
The rate at which doctors and nurses suffer from addiction may be high, but this subgroup of people also has a high rate of recovery when they undergo treatment.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at email@example.com.