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Addiction in the Medical Profession Explained

In the United States, both doctors and nurses account for some of the highest rates of addiction in the workplace. Similar statistics apply for Australia, the United Kingdom, and France; however, are infrequently published. It is believed in the United States, approximately 100,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and other healthcare workers struggle with abuse or addiction. Most of them are turning to amphetamines to help them get through their long working hours or narcotics such as oxycodone or fentanyl. What makes addiction in the medical profession different from other workplace environments is the accessibility to various drugs. In general, it is much easier for a medical worker to access addictive drugs; thus it is easy to feed the addiction.

Common Reasons for Using Drugs or Alcohol in the Healthcare Workplace

Like other working professionals, there are various reasons as to why a healthcare worker might turn to drug or alcohol use. The following are some of the most common reasons for addiction in the medical profession include, but are not limited to:

  • To stay alert or awake during an overnight shift
  • To escape the emotional pain that might result from an upsetting outcome
  • To concentrate or focus on pressing issues
  • To cope with difficult decisions
  • To cope with an imbalance between work and life
  • To deal with the loss of enthusiasm about their career choice

Nurses face unique forms of anxiety and stress. In addition to facing the aforementioned, nurses might also face the following stress related to:

  • A high amount of responsibility
  • Having to be adaptable to ongoing change
  • The pressure in making decisions that are potentially life threatening
  • The lack of resources needed
  • Management issues
  • Physical demands of the job

Pharmacists have a key role in the medical industry and also face their own type of stress load. Many pharmacists are overworked and struggle to find a balance between their job and home life. As a rehab for medical professionals, we know of pharmacists who talk about:

  • Job instability
  • Being overworked
  • Facing short staffing issues
  • Limited continuing education
  • Inflexible managers or supervisors

Although it might not be discussed here, it is important to remember that there are many people involved in the medical profession (i.e. paramedics, police officers, physician assistants, technicians, front desk works, hospital cleaners, etc.). All of these workers face work in a high paced environment that involves a lot of emotional, mental distress, and anxiety. This also means that their vulnerability to develop an addiction is considerably high.

When a medical worker develops an addiction to alcohol or drugs, help is needed. Usually, they will be attempting to mask a problem or work-related issues, and have turned to a vice that will worsen their situation. It is important to know that a rehab for medical professionals is always available.

Statistics for Addiction in the Medical Profession

According to the Journal of Clinical Nursing, approximately 20 percent of nurses in the United States have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

  • About 1 in 10 medical doctors will abuse or become addicted to a substance at some point during their career.
  • Healthcare workers who go to a rehab for medical professionals, and participate in aftercare, have a far lower rate of relapse than other groups of people.
  • 71 percent of healthcare workers who receive addiction treatment are still sober, licensed, and employed after 5 years.

While the statistics for addiction amongst doctors and nurses might be high, this group of people also has one of the highest rates of recovery once they do go to rehab.

Signs of Addiction Amongst Healthcare Workers

Identifying an addiction in doctors, nurses, or other healthcare workers might not be as straightforward as other groups of people. This is because this group of people are usually considered to be highly functional addicts. In other words, they are able to maintain their career, home life, and even addiction without others noticing.

  • Opting for night shifts where it might be easier to obtain medication
  • Changing positions or jobs often
  • Sleeping excessively between shifts or on the job
  • Eagerly volunteering to administer narcotics
  • Anxious about working extra shifts
  • Taking frequent bathroom breaks
  • Unexplained absences
  • Smelling of alcohol
  • Financial hardship
  • Family distress
  • Small pupils
  • Glassy eyes
  • Unusual relationships with coworkers who prescribe medications
  • Repeated errors on paperwork

Why Healthcare Workers Might Turn to Drugs or Alcohol

When it comes to addiction in the medical profession, one must understand that healthcare workers are faced with many unique aspects that make these workers more prone to drug or alcohol use.

As a rehab for nurses, we know that many medical workers feel tempted to try out, and eventually abuse, prescription drugs like fentanyl or oxycodone. Even though they must go through different measures to access the drugs, it is still relatively easy to do so. Depending on the medical facility, there might be internal issues with accounting for the medications as they are administered. Medical professionals also understand the effects of these medications. These effects might encourage them to try and experience the sensations on their own.

Along with their long working hours, nurses and doctors are required to make fast decisions regarding the wellbeing of a patient. In the event they feel as if an outcome was their responsibility, and there is a sense of regret with that outcome, various negative emotions might arise. A fragile emotional or mental state can encourage the use of drugs or alcohol.

Rehab for Medical Professionals

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are in a highly-respected line of work; however, that does not make them immune to addiction. There are rehabs that cater to these professionals and offer them a healthy start towards life. Elements that may be included in treatment are:

  • Returning to a professional practice
  • Avoiding potential triggers inside and outside the workplace
  • Restoring your career
  • Returning to work
  • How to address possible disciplinary issues
  • Participating in aftercare treatment

It cannot be emphasised enough that medical professionals have a higher than average rate of maintaining sobriety after going to rehab. This is a strong reason to remain optimistic and get help as soon as possible.

Are You a Medical Professional with an Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol?

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers not only put their life at risk, but also the wellbeing of patients in their care. It might be difficult to accept that there is a problem; however, the sooner, the better. This can prevent accidents from happening on the job, or accusations of neglect from patients and their loved ones. It may also avoid a loss of licence which could be devastating. If you are a medical professional and addicted to drugs or alcohol, Siam Rehab may be able to help you. As a leading rehab for medical professionals, we have the necessary staff, knowledge, and experience to help you reclaim your life and get back to maintaining an optimal career path. To learn more about our drug and alcohol rehab in Thailand, call Siam Rehab today.

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