Problems Faced by Physicians While Treating Addicts

People from all walks of life struggle with addiction. Recent statistics on alcohol and drug addiction show that approximately 16 million adults abuse alcohol and 6.9 million people 12 and over abuse drugs. There are a number of reasons for alcohol and drug abuse from a genetic predilection to child abuse and mental issues. Physicians are as prone to the risk factors as anyone. Stress is a leading cause of alcohol and drug abuse.

Physicians Face Additional Pressures

What are some of the extra pressures that doctors may experience in addition to normal stress? The demands of a medical career are many. In order to obtain a medical license, a student must spend four years to obtain an undergraduate degree, another four years of medical school, and from three to seven years of residency. The pressure as well as the long hours may be a contributing factor for physicians to turn to alcohol and drugs more so than others.

Is Availability a Factor?

It is a given that doctors would have more access to addictive drugs than the general public. Since they can prescribe medications, it is possible for a physician to self-prescribe for long periods of time without notice. Even if they are not self-prescribing, alcohol could become a factor to help relieve day-to-day stress. Actually alcohol is included in one of the four major groups of psychoactive drugs.

Caring for Patients Can Be Frustrating

The daily care of patients can often be a frustrating job. Many times doctors deal with the loss of patients they are trying to treat. In addition, they may struggle with treatment options that are just not working. Sometimes patients can be quite demanding and difficult to deal with, and most doctors are at a loss as to how to handle these situations. An example of a program that may help is NCPHP and NC Physicians Health Program Website.

Does Professional Courtesy Play a Role?

Although doctors have an obligation to report other doctors they suspect may be under the influence while treating patients, often they do not. There are a number of reasons for not reporting a colleague. The doctor may not be sure of their suspicions and they do not want to get involved. They may fear that they will become known as a “rat” and experience a loss of referrals. This can have financial ramifications. Additionally, they may be hesitant to cause another doctor to face legal consequences.

It has been estimated that one in ten doctors has developed a drug or alcohol problem sometime in their career. It is important to know that physicians are human and just like others, they are susceptible to abuse or addiction; however, treatment is available.

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