Unfortunately, substance abuse among doctors and nurses make up some of the highest rates of addiction in the workforce. The stress and pressure of being a nurse or doctor can take a mental and physical toll on a person over time. According to a study, around 5.5% of all medical professionals struggle with illicit drug abuse. Substance abuse in health care professionals is more common than one would think.
There is a connection between doctors, nurses, and addiction. Certain jobs that involve a lot of stress and pressure can make a person turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Being a doctor or nurse can involve hard decision-making and upsetting situations on a regular basis – a person may see alcohol or drug use as a way to take the edge off or to cope with these emotional scenarios.
These high rates of substance abuse in health care professionals paint a concerning picture. What might add to fuel the fire is the access to prescription drugs that a regular person would not have access to. Medical professionals can be prone to addiction and drug abuse, however, this group also has a high rate of recovery when it comes to getting addiction treatment.
Drug-Addicted Nurses and Doctor Statistics
According to USA Today, upwards of 100,000 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals have addiction or drug abuse problems (specifically with drugs like Oxycodone and Fentanyl among others.
Another local study conducted by physician Shelly Reese, found that 69% of 55 physicians observed had misused a prescription drug at least once in their careers. A common thread was using to cope with the high levels of emotional and physical stress brought upon from the job. When put in a stressful position day in and day out, a person may see drug use and alcohol as the only escape insight. What may start as a simple attempt to deal with depression, stress, and other challenges, can end up evolving into an addiction and a substance abuse problem.
Other stats include the following:
- 20% of nurses struggle with addiction (Journal of Clinical Nursing)
- 71% of physicians that receive treatment (and continue treatment after the fact) have a much-lowered rate of relapse.
- 10% of physicians will abuse drugs or alcohol at one point in their career
Signs of Possible Substance Abuse in Health Care Professionals
It can be especially tough to spot an addiction or a dependence when dealing with doctors or nurses. This is because people in this profession can be considered high-functioning addicts. Those who fit these criteria can hold down a job, a home life, and an addiction without being apparent about their drug abuse.
In these cases, addiction is not usually noticeable to those around them, which can make the situation even more problematic in the long-run. It’s important to be aware of these signs and symptoms if you have a loved one in the medical field. Signs of drug-addicted nurses and doctors include:
- Dilated or glassy pupils/eyes
- Frequently changing jobs or position
- Falling asleep in between shifts or while working
- Intense family, financial, and relationship stress
- Anxious when talking about overtime or additional shifts
- Frequently volunteering to administer narcotics to patients
- Constant breaks or unexplained absences during their shift
- Frequently problems in paperwork or daily responsibilities on the clock
- A preference for late/night shifts (access to medication and little to no supervision)
- An overly friendly relationship with pharmacists or doctors or prescribe drugs
- The smell of alcohol and using breath mints excessively to mask the smell
Due to the nature of their job, it can be easy for healthcare professionals to gain access to medication and other drugs. While it may be tough to spot addiction in a medical professional, these subtle signs can help indicate a problem. If you notice any of these symptoms in a loved one, it may be best to get professional treatment.
Why Do Doctors and Nurses Turn to Drugs and Alcohol?
Those who work in the medical field experience many stressful and problematic situations that other jobs wouldn’t normally experience. There are specific parts of a doctor/nurse’s job that enables them to abuse drugs or turn to alcohol for stress/pain relief. Each case is different and there may be certain aspects of their job that can be the tipping point.
One of the reasons why a medical professional may fall into drug abuse is the ease of access to powerful prescription drugs like Oxycodone or Fentanyl. What makes this even more complicated is the fact that medical professionals have an in-depth understanding of the effects of these drugs. They may be tempted to try these drugs themselves to feel the effects (particularly the euphoric high many drugs tend to give off).
Another major reason for the connection between doctors/nurses and addiction is the massive stress involved with the job. It is no surprise that those in the medical field may be met with intense, heat-of-the-moment decisions where people’s lives are at stake. Having a person’s life in your hands can put a person under severe pressure, especially if the outcome is negative. These situations can occur on a weekly basis, which affects the person’s mental and physical state. To cope with these intense stresses, a medical professional may turn to drug or alcohol use. As they continue to use they can end up developing an addiction to alcohol/drugs.
Addiction in the Workplace
Sometimes addictions can evolve to the point where a person’s daily responsibilities may be impacted. When it comes to medical professionals, those who are dependent on a drug are much more likely to cause an accident or mistake in the workplace. If an addiction has developed, the person may be distracted or may leave important situations/appointments to use a drug.
Similar to driving a vehicle or a machine when under the influence of drugs or alcohol; a medical professional who’s dealing with drug use is putting themselves and others in potential danger. This can cause complicated problems for both the person abusing the drugs and their patients. This is why it’s important to get help for addiction sooner rather than later.
To avoid accidents and worse consequences, it’s best to combat addiction head-on with the proper help. At Coastal Detox, we understand how stressful being a healthcare professional can be, this is why we treat all our patients with respect and support.
Addiction Treatment for Drug Abuse Doctors and Nurses
Even with the immense amount of knowledge and skill involved in being a doctor, not even medical professionals are immune from addiction. With this in mind, it doesn’t matter how a person got to where they are, what matters is they get professional help. Luckily, many treatment programs are specifically designed with medical professionals in mind. It’s not too late to turn things around for the better.
Additionally, many state programs offer help and guidance to medical professionals struggling with addiction. These state programs help make sure that a person doesn’t lose their license or practice because of their addiction. Additionally, these specific programs help those in the medical field cope with the stressful environment in the workplace. Specialized treatment for drug-addicted nurses and doctors include the following aspects:
- Continuing treatment options through after-care
- A gradual transition back to their professional practice
- Avoiding and coping with triggers in/out of the work environment
- An in-depth overview of licensing and disciplinary subjects
- Help in restoring reputation and career in the medical field
- Participation in different monitoring programs
One of the silver linings for medical professionals getting addiction treatment is the high success rate of sobriety in this sub-group. This fact can help a person stay motivated and hopeful as they continue onto treatment.
The more equipped and specific the treatment program is for medical professionals, the higher the rate of success. This is why it’s best for the staff and team to be knowledgeable about the highs and lows of being a doctor, as well as creating a safe and open environment. This is in the same vein as programs that work with first responders, law enforcement, and firefighters dealing with drug abuse and addiction.
These same struggles can be seen in doctors and nurses as well. Having a supportive and open environment catered to medical professionals can make all the difference during treatment. At Coastal Detox we ensure that you and your loved ones are comfortable and taken care of through the whole process.
Start the Journey Towards Recovery Today
Unfortunately, substance abuse in health care professionals is not a new problem. Every year, hundreds of medical professionals fall into drug addiction because of stress and other reasons. If you or a loved one is a worker in the medical field and is dealing with an addiction, Coastal Detox is here to help. We make sure that your loved one is taken care of with personalized and effective support. Don’t wait; give us a call today to get started on the journey towards recovery.