The Scope of Physician Addiction

The problem of physician addiction is of significant concern not only to doctors and their families but also to patients, hospitals and the public at large. Bright and ambitious by nature, not even doctors are immune to addiction. In fact, doctors are affected by addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders at similar or higher rates as the general population.

Here are a few important facts about physician addiction:

• The rate of addiction among practicing physicians is between 10 and 15 percent.

• As a result of the stigma attached to addicted doctors as well as the threat to their license and professional reputation, addiction is often advanced by the time physicians get treatment.

• Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug among physicians.

• Doctors have higher rates of prescription drug abuse (particularly opioids and benzodiazepines) than the general population.

• Suicide rates are two to three times higher for physicians than for the general population.

While doctors face significant challenges, one advantage they have is access to physician health programs, which are dedicated in large part to helping doctors struggling with substance abuse and related problems.