Healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, or technicians, are often at a high risk of developing a substance abuse problem. Access to prescription medications combined with the high-intensity, stress-inducing work environment leaves many vulnerable to substance use. It is important to seek treatment for anyone within the medical community who is misusing drugs or alcohol.
Why Are Medical Professionals Heavily Affected by Addiction
There are many aspects of the medical profession that may make them vulnerable to the development of substance abuse issues. Doctors and nurses will often have incredibly easy access to powerful prescription medications, including prescription opioids such as Oxycontin. In small amounts, doctors and nurses may often be able to take some of these medications without others noticing anything has gone missing.
As time goes on, doctors and nurses may need more and more medications to feel the desired effects. They may make friends with other doctors who will be willing to prescribe them prescription drugs without too many questions. Because doctors and nurses have medical training, they can often fake symptoms more effectively to get a prescription for more medication.
Medical professionals work in a high-stress environment. Being placed in situations that cause anxiety often will make a chemical change in the brain that is similar to how addiction affects the brain. Dealing with chronic stress makes a person more vulnerable to developing a substance abuse or mental health challenge. It also makes recovery addicts more likely to relapse.
Medical professionals, specifically doctors and nurses, are forced to make split-second decisions, often with patients’ lives on the line. Seeing death and the terminally ill on a daily basis can be incredibly scarring for a person. Doctors and nurses may experience trauma based on graphic images within the hospital or may feel an intense feeling of guilt at the loss of a patient if they feel that it is their fault. Often they may turn to substance use to deal with the pain.
Signs of Addiction in the Workplace
Many doctors and nurses with a substance abuse issue are “functioning” addicts, meaning that the signs of their alcohol or drug use may not be readily apparent to those around them. Still, there are often crucial signs to watch out if you think someone around you may be suffering from a substance use problem. Common signs of substance abuse among medical professionals include:
- Showing up to work late
- Refusal to work overtime or additional shifts outside of their normal schedule
- Theft or items suddenly going missing around an individual
- Medications disappearing
- Last-minute call outs due to illness or not showing up for a shift
- Seeming unusually tired or “out of it”
- The inability to clearly communicate with colleagues
- Difficulty executing clinical decisions
- Documentation or paperwork errors
- A loss of productivity
- Not returning pages or calls in a timely manner
- Frequent trips to the bathroom or disappearing throughout the day
The Effects of Addiction on Medical Professionals
The most significant risk of addiction in the medical profession is the chance of making an error. A person dependent on drugs or alcohol will often have difficulty or concentrating and are far more likely to make mistakes in the workplace. While mistakes at work can often be harmful, in the medical profession, they can be incredibly dangerous for those around you.
Every time a doctor or nurse uses drugs or alcohol while at work, they are putting themselves in danger and their patients. If one of these mistakes puts a patient in harm’s way, there can be serious consequences as a result. If a person is found to be at fault for a mistake in the medical profession, they may lose their job, be sued for malpractice, or even face arrest and further fines.
Even if a medical professional addicted to drugs does not make a costly mistake, they can still be a negative force in the workplace. Drug addiction is often responsible for a loss of productivity and less efficient work. In the medical profession, it can also lead to paperwork or prescription errors. This can cost a significant amount of time to resolve, which is incredibly valuable within a hospital setting.
If you are a medical professional struggling with addiction or think you may recognize the signs of substance abuse in others, it is essential to seek treatment or encourage others to seek treatment as soon as possible. Substance abuse always puts the user at risk, but it can put many others at risk within the medical profession.
Treatment and Recovery for Medical Professionals
Doctors and nurses who seek out treatment for substance use disorder often find the process to be effective. Medical professionals are statistically more likely to maintain sobriety after treatment than the average person. While many different treatment options are available to medical professionals, some programs specifically cater to those within the medical community.
While treatment is also essential, it is crucial for medical professionals dealing with a substance abuse problem. Doctors and nurses who may be abusing drugs are putting all of their patients at significant risk. Over time, medical professionals will put themselves and others in harm’s way due to their substance use. This can lead to consequences such as a loss of their job, malpractice lawsuits, or even arrest.
The early treatment is sought out, the better. Treatment is usually very effective among those in the medical industry. Many are able to reenter practice once treatment ends. Some programs continue to provide additional outpatient support upon reentry of medical work. It can often be challenging for people in recovery to work around prescription medications on a daily basis.
Let Us Help You With Addiction Treatment
At Warner Park Recovery, we’re here to help individuals and families by providing exceptional addiction treatment options. We’re a dual diagnosis (mental health combined with substance abuse treatment) program that offers partial day, intensive outpatient, and traditional outpatient levels of care. We regularly treat patients from the Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Topanga Canyon, The Valley, and Thousand Oaks areas. If you are looking for help with addiction treatment, please give us a call to learn more about our professional services!