According to a study on substance abuse in physicians from the NCBI, “Approximately 10% to 12% of physicians will develop a substance use disorder during their careers, a rate similar to or exceeding that of the general population.” These numbers are staggering, and unfortunately, a drug addiction syndrome could end a physician’s career and often does if left untreated.
However, it is important for doctors, just like individuals in the general public, to be able to find help for drug addiction and heal from the issues substance abuse can cause. Below are several options that will allow you to find help if you are a doctor or know a doctor who is addicted to drugs.
In many cases, friends and family members of doctors with addictions are afraid to reach out to other health care professionals because they are concerned that their loved one will be deemed unfit to return to work or face legal issues as a result of their addiction. This is also a reason why physicians who know they need help also neglect to speak up. However, whether you are a doctor yourself or the loved one of a doctor, it is important to face the addiction and get help.
One of the best ways to find the help you need is to reach out to those around you. A coworker or an individual you trust could know how to proceed in getting you into treatment. In addition, friends and family members can also talk to a professional about finding help for the physician in their lives. Drug addiction does not go away on its own, and the longer it goes untreated, the worse the situation will become.
Staging an Intervention
If you are the loved one of a doctor who refuses to see that they have a problem with drug abuse, it may be important to stage an intervention. You will need to invite several people your loved one is close to so they can understand how their addiction is affecting those most important in their life. For help, you can go to a professional interventionist who can lead the discussion and show the individual how serious the situation is.
First, the individual must be removed from a practice setting during this time, as they are not fit to care for others in their current state. A professional interventionist can help with this as well, and it may be important for you to discuss the facts with the doctor’s coworkers or supervisor where they are currently in practice. The next part of the intervention requires that the individual be brought to “an established health care environment, such as the employee health clinic or emergency department, where immediate drug testing can be undertaken.” Then, the physician can hear from friends, family members, and coworkers about the dangers of their actions and the concerns their loved ones have about their drug use. This should end in immediate treatment for the physician.
Like everyone else, it is important for doctors to receive addiction treatment when they have been abusing drugs for a long period of time. According to the NIDA, “Drug addiction is treatable, often with medications (for some addictions) combined with behavioral therapies,” and doctors will often be in need of a full addiction treatment program. This is because
- “The intellect that physicians rely on to learn their craft allows them to develop exceptional rationalization, denial, and resistance techniques. Thus, recognition of their disease is difficult.” They will need time to realize and cope with their situation.
- Addicted doctors will need to be observed as having a very strong and stable recovery before they can return back to work.
- They will have been accustomed to being the helpers in situations like these so it may take them time to adjust to being a patient.
- Doctors often begin abusing drugs for many reasons. Stress, depression over patients, a need to be the best, long work hours, and mental illnesses are all often co-occurring issues for doctors who become addicted to drugs, and these problems need to be discovered and treated along with the addiction itself.
In order to find a rehabilitation center near you, you may want to use our directory as a possible resource, or find out if there is a program that is recommended through your workplace. In many instances, hospitals and other large care centers have the information of specific rehab facilities that are catered to the needs of doctors. It is important that individuals who have these needs are able to attend a program that meets them, whether it provides anonymity, 24-hour care, intensive behavioral therapy, or another kind of necessary treatment option.
Physicians Health Programs
According to the University of Florida, Physician Health Programs exist that are specifically established for doctors in need of treatment. The study found that “more than three-quarters of doctors enrolled in state programs stayed drug-free over a five-year monitoring period. The results were the same regardless of whether the doctor’s drug of choice was alcohol, crack cocaine, prescription drugs or other substances.”
These programs are not the same as addiction treatment centers and actually work by helping physicians work on their addictions over several years instead of a few months or weeks. Physicians will often be asked over long stretches of time to take urine tests to check for any drug use and to visit the program in order to discuss their progress. Physician Health Programs work by helping to rehabilitate doctors addicted to drugs and allowing them to move back into their profession when the time is right. Most states have their own PHPs, and you can find those closest to you by asking someone at your local hospital or looking online.
Finding help for doctors addicted to drugs may seem impossible at first, but there are ways that a physician can recover from addiction (with help) and return to their practice. However, every physician is different and, like their patients, must receive the type of help that is best for them.