When your job is to take care of people all day long, sometimes it is easy to forget to take care of yourself. Working as a physician can be a high-stress job, and many health care professionals, including locum tenens, struggle with physician burnout. What do you do when you’re stressed out?
Maybe you like to go for a run or read a book to distract you from the stress. Maybe your preference is to unwind with a cocktail. No harm in a glass of wine after work, right? Yet, some people can’t stop at just one drink, and others don’t stop at just drinking. They look for other things to take the edge off, like drugs. It’s easy to let bad habits spiral out of control, and physicians are not immune to substance use disorder. In fact, about 15 percent of physicians will struggle with addiction in their lifetime. It’s hard to care for others when you’ve stopped taking care of yourself so make sure you know about addiction treatment for physicians available in your state.
How common is addiction treatment for physicians?
Physicians most commonly abuse alcohol, and they tend to have higher rates of opioid pain pill abuse than the general population. Doctors have high rates of prescription drug use, in part, because of work-related stress. They also have convenient access to pills. Therefore, when they’re stressed and looking for an outlet – it’s an easy grab. In fact, a 2013 study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine revealed that 69 percent of doctors abused prescription medicine “to relieve stress and physical or emotional pain.” Some doctors have even shared their addiction stories after receiving felony charges for writing bad scripts. The good news is that there are high success rates when it comes to addiction treatment for physicians.
Some states, such as California, Georgia, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, don’t have programs for physicians. All other states have a physician health program in place that helps doctors get treatment and return to practice. Most of the time, doctors who use the program avoid getting into trouble with the medical board, and 75 to 85 percent of those who seek addiction treatment for physicians are able to remain clean from drugs and return to work. In the states that don’t have physician health programs, those doctors are responsible for finding their own help. The reason some states took away physician health programs is that the programs were under fire by groups that believe addicted doctors should be punished rather than rehabilitated. There’s also an ongoing debate on whether or not physicians could be drug tested, as that is not currently common practice in the health care industry.
Regardless of how addiction in physicians is discovered, it’s important to seek help and be mindful of potentially dangerous habits. As a doctor, especially one who is traveling often, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities and forget to take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own habits, and keep an eye out for warning signs in your co-workers.