When we think about the prescription drug epidemic few of us include the doctors who prescribe those drugs. And yet around 10-15 percent of physicians wind up dealing with substance abuse at some point in their lives, mostly in the form of prescription drug abuse. Though this is roughly equivalent to rates among the general population, doctors who use substances while still in practice are a risk to their patients and can harm to public confidence. Few physicians are willing to risk seeking treatment for fear of their addiction being discovered, but physician health programs (PHPs) were designed to overcome this very hurdle.
It’s becoming more and more common to read about a nurse, physician, anesthesiologist or other medical health professional overdosing and dying (or nearly so) from prescription drug abuse, specifically opioid pain relievers. The stories are disquieting and tragic, all the more so because these overdoses and deaths can be prevented.
According to a USA Today study of government data, more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and other health professionals struggle with drug abuse or addiction. Various studies put the number much higher. Is it time to get serious about physician drug abuse (and, by extension, others in the medical profession) and do something about it? [Read more…]