Addiction and Alcoholism Within the Medical Profession

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals often struggle with addiction and alcoholism. This surprises most people because these individuals are supposed to be focused on good health. However, addiction does not discriminate. They are more apt to fall prey to substance abuse than most people realize.

If you currently work in the medical field, and you have an addiction, your situation may seem hopeless. You may think that there’s no way for you to escape it. The truth is that while it may be difficult, it is possible for you to recover. You only need to get the right type of help.

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What is Addiction and Why are Medical Professionals at Risk?

No one in the medical field plans to get addicted to substances. However, so many of them are.

An addiction begins with abusing substances, and the temptation to do so is great. People who abuse drugs or alcohol often feel as though they can control their use. This is the case even after the addiction has set in.

When you have an addiction, what you are really suffering from is a brain disease. It’s not a condition that’s going to go away overnight. In order to recover, most people find that they need to get professional help. Addicts feel physically and psychologically compelled to use. It’s important to address all aspects of the problem correctly.

All instances of alcohol addiction begin with abuse. For those in the medical field, this usually starts off being very innocent. They may enjoy having a few drinks at the end of a long shift, for example. Eventually, alcohol becomes a way to relieve stress, and it takes on a place of importance in their lives.

Alcohol use among people who work in the medical field is accepted as normal. Also, society views alcohol as acceptable. It’s a drug that’s very easy to obtain, and it’s readily available to anyone old enough to purchase it.

Once someone has become an alcoholic, they’re unable to stop drinking. They may drink during the day, or even while they’re working. They may spend their weekends or days off binge drinking. At that point, they’re out of control, and the only way to recover is to get help.

The idea of doctors and other medical professionals getting addicted to drugs is unheard of for most people. However, these individuals have open and often unsupervised access to some of the most powerful drugs.

As you might expect, prescription drug addiction is extremely common among medical professionals. Once abuse becomes a drug addiction, significant changes happen within the brain. Behaviors change, and the person is no longer able to just stop using.

One of the biggest issues is that so many in the medical field think addiction can’t happen to them. They feel that because of their knowledge, they’re immune to it. They falsely believe that they have the power to control it. This only serves to fuel the problem.

If you have a drug addiction, please know that you need to get help right away. In the meantime, it will benefit you to learn more about addiction for those in your field.

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Addicted M.D.: Why Doctors Turn to Addiction

"Physicians are invested with awesome responsibility and trust. We are thought of as invulnerable, as miracle workers, and we're told, ‘Heal thyself.' We're no better at that than the rest of you and in some ways, we're far worse." - Dr. Peter Grinspoon, Boston, Massachusetts

The idea of an addicted doctor is strange to most people, but the fact is that as many as 15% of doctors in the United States are addicted to drugs.

This is a serious problem, and what makes matters even worse is that there are so many doctors who will remain in denial about their addictions for years, refusing to do anything about them. What may be even more interesting is the fact that only between 8 and 10% of the general population has a problem with addiction. That means there are many more addicted physicians in the United States than most people realize.

The question that many people want to know the answer to is, why? Why are doctors turning to addiction, and what is it that makes them feel that it's OK to do so, when it's not OK for their patients to do the same thing?

There are many different factors that lead to addictions in physicians, and even though all of these factors are a reality for most doctors, they in no way should be used as an excuse. Doctors are tasked with such an important job, and that's healing and treating the sick, keeping the healthy well, and providing exceptional medical care for all who are in need of it. It's nearly impossible for them to do their jobs well when they are suffering from addictions, and yet, many of them continue to practice long after they become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

It may help to know what some of those factors are.

Understanding the reasons behind doctors' addictions might not automatically point to the solution for this widespread problem, but it can assist addicted doctors with realizing that they're not alone; although many of them are convinced that they are.

It's actually a fairly common practice for many people to turn to an alcoholic drink or drugs when they want to unwind and de-stress. There is definitely a link between stress and alcohol, but when this becomes too common a practice, and when it starts to happen all the time, it's very likely that an addiction will soon be present.

The same is true for doctors, and because of the high-stress circumstances they constantly find themselves in, they are much more prone to extreme pressure on the job than those who work in various other positions. Some may even argue that their stress levels are even more serious today than they ever have been before. Doctors do so much more during the course of a day that just see patients. They're also constantly working hard to help their staff in the office, and they are frequently found on the phone with health insurance companies trying to work through billing issues so that they can get paid correctly. When you couple this with the fact that they are charged with making important health decisions for a countless number of patients each and every day, it's easy to see how stress can take over their lives.

It's very common for physicians to turn to alcohol as a way to unwind at the end of the day, and many of them will actually take prescription medications in the mornings after a long night of binge drinking so that no one will suspect that there is any type of a substance abuse problem present.

One of the reasons why doctor may become hooked on drugs or alcohol is because of the long hours doctors work. 12 to 16 hour shifts are actually quite common for physicians, and there are those who actually stay at the office or in the hospital for longer than that, several days a week. This creates a situation where they have little to no time for their families, they don't get much time off, and they end up living their lives to work instead of working to provide good lives for themselves. Of course, this goes against everything they thought when they first entered medical school.

Many doctors regret their job choices. Research has shown that only 54% of doctors say that they would choose to become doctors again, if they had to make the decision for a second time. This percentage is down from 69% in 2011. One of the reasons they cite for this decline is because health insurance reimbursement rates are currently the lowest that they have been in a very long time. Many physicians just aren't getting paid as much as they once were, and that makes all the long hours and personal sacrifices seem as though they're not really worthwhile after all.

Many medical students begin their educational careers knowing that they won't be getting much sleep. They know all about the long hours that will be spent in class, studying for exams, and preparing to finish labs in order to get their coveted degrees. Some of them may even be aware of the fact that as doctors, they will also be expected to work long hours, but most believe that once they have the white coat, they'll be in charge of their careers and their lives.

The fact of the matter is that many doctors are sleep-deprived. History tells us that William Halsted, who was the first Chief of Surgery at Johns Hopkins in the 1890s required his residents to be on call for 362 days a year. During the next 100 years, the same attitude was in place for most of the medical establishment. Of course, research has shown that when a doctor is lacking in sleep, the potential for medical errors increases at a dramatic rate.

A study was actually done that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2004. Interns were required to work 30-hour shifts for the study, and the results were shocking. They indicated that:

  • Having to be responsible for the lives of hundreds of passengers every single day.
  • Having to maintain good mental health in order to perform their jobs.
  • Losing sleep because of immediate turn-around flights.
  • Spending many days away from their homes and families because of their schedules.
  • Keeping up with the demands of maintaining their knowledge base, and increasing it periodically as the industry changes and grows.

It should come as no surprise that long hours cause sleep deprivation, and many physicians live in fear of making similar errors because of it. It makes sense that many of them turn to prescription medications in order to help them stay awake and function at an optimal level as a result.

Physicians spend a great deal of the day on their feet, bending over to perform various procedures, or hurrying from one patient to another. For many, this puts an incredible amount of strain on their bodies. Obtaining prescription drugs is no problem for them because they're basically granted unlimited access to them. Doctors who need to get medications will often reason in their minds that they are too busy to visit a physician for a prescription. They can get the medications they need from a hospital or office pharmacy, or they can write bad prescriptions for the medications in order to obtain them. Sometimes, doctors will even take medications that patients have brought in for disposal and keep them for their own personal use.

Of course, these medications work very quickly, and the relief that's experienced is not only almost immediate, but it's also very easy to obtain. The temptation to use them again and again is right there, and a lot of doctors give in to that temptation. Because the drugs are often addictive, it's easy to see how fast a doctor who chooses this route to cope with physical pain can develop an addiction.

Because of the stress that doctors are constantly under, it's easy to understand why that stress would lead to some type of mental illness in many of them. The fact is that mental illness among physicians is actually much higher that most people believe it to be because doctors are afraid to talk about it, and they don't want to admit that they need help for these conditions. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health conditions plague doctors, and self-medicating may seem to be an easy way for them to treat themselves without admitting that there is a problem.

For a doctor, to admit that you are depressed, having anxiety, or dealing with another mental health condition would be to admit weakness. That's something they are taught to never do.

M.D.s and Substance Abuse: Why Do Doctors Fear Disclosing Their Addictions?

For most doctors, there remains an incredible fear of disclosing their chemical dependency to others. They may be afraid of admitting that they have an addiction for several reasons, such as:

  • Fear of losing their licenses
  • Fear of losing their positions within hospitals or clinics
  • The fear of appearing to be weak in front of their colleagues
  • Pride in themselves
  • Being afraid to lose their families

The self-sufficiency that doctors are taught to maintain in their jobs actually does them a great disservice in their own personal lives. Physicians need to realize that addictions do occur, and many times, they happen to people who never really intended to get addicted to anything at all. It takes a strong physician to reject all of these fears and instead choose to do whatever it takes to get into a recovery program for doctors so that they can not only take good care of themselves, but also give their patients a doctor who is able to treat them without being impaired.

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Physicians, Drugs and Alcohol: What Causes Them to Come Forward?

Quite often, doctors do not voluntarily come forward about their addictions because of all of the above issues.

However those that do make the decision to come forward will often do so because of a number of reasons, including:

  • Being discovered because they show up high or drunk in the operating room.
  • Getting a DUI
  • Police charges are pressed against them for drug activity
  • Being reported by a colleague
  • Being reported by a patient

If any of these take place, doctors are given the opportunity to get the help they need, and quite often, most legal charges are dropped. They may lose their licenses for a period of time, and they may need to be supervised when they do return to work. Clearly, when a doctor makes the choice to come forward about his or her addiction, the circumstances are often quite different. Usually, they're given the chance to get professional help and the penalties are not as serious in these situations.

"Tomorrow - tomorrow I will stop." - Dr. Marc Myer, Family Practice Physician in Minnesota

Unfortunately, this is what most doctors with addictions tell themselves regarding their drug use, and in doing so, they put their medical licenses at risk. Many of them turn to prescription medications rather than risk using illegal drugs. In fact, the number of doctors who use illegal drugs is actually quite low - only 6.7% of medical professionals admit to having used any type of illegal substance during their lifetimes. The ease of obtaining prescription drugs to use for their own personal purposes means that opioid medications, amphetamines and other types of prescription drugs are usually their drugs of choice.

Usually, physicians will use these drugs without fear of what might happen to them because they never intend to get caught. Because of the level of control that they're able to maintain in their jobs, they assume that they will be able to remain in control over their substance use as well. Most of them are actually quite successful at keeping their addictions hidden, and because hospitals and clinics generally don't require drug tests or alcohol tests from their employees, it makes it quite easy to maintain an addiction for a number of years.

However, there does come a point when many doctors and other medical professionals may have to suffer serious consequences to their addictions. The question is, what are those consequences, and what will they mean for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals down the road?

Many medical professionals live in fear of having their addictions found out, which is the main reason why they're so careful about keeping them hidden. They definitely have a fear experiencing legal consequences of their actions. However, what they don't realize is that this really isn't a fear they should be dealing with at all.

Lawmakers have realized over the years that when someone is an addict, it's much more effective to place them into a program for drug or alcohol treatment instead of incarcerating them. Incarceration doesn't do anything to help the addiction at all, and if real reform is to take place for anyone who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, getting treatment is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, so many healthcare providers are still afraid of being penalized legally for their addictions, and so they maintain the belief that if their addictions are found out, they'll end up having to serve time in jail, or even time in prison in some cases.

Addicted doctors and nurses, as well as other medical personnel should be afraid of losing their medical licenses, at least temporarily. The situation varies from physician to physician, based on his or her own individual circumstances, but one doctor recently shared his story about being arrested because of his addiction.

The doctor was Dr. Peter Grinspoon, and he had become a drug addict while he was in medical school. He and another student experimented with Vicodin together, which led him down a slippery slope into addiction. As time went on, he began writing bad scripts for himself for prescription medications, and eventually, that caught up to him. He was charged on three counts of fraudulent prescribing, which were felonies.

Fortunately, his three felony charges were eventually dismissed. He did have to serve two years of supervised court probation, and he was interrogated in front of the state medical board and an attorney. He did lose his medical license, and was out of work for close to four years. Once he agreed to a 90-day drug and alcohol rehab program, he was able to begin to get his life back. The entire process was five years of counseling, drug testing and monitoring in the workplace.

For a physician, or any other type of medical professional, having an addiction is a very serious matter. Patients' lives are in their hands, and many decisions they make are matters of life and death. It makes sense for them to have to suffer the consequence of losing their licenses, but by admitting that they have an addiction that needs help, they can shorten the duration of the time they have to spend without working.

A number of things can occur when a practitioner's addiction is discovered, but it all depends on who discovers it. As in the case of Dr. Grinspoon, his deception, and the decision to illegally use his prescription pad to write scripts for medications for himself eventually ended with felony charges. Even though those charges were eventually dropped, a relapse means that it could happen again.

There are other ways that addictions can be discovered as well, and the responses usually vary. These include:

  • Family members who discover addictions, and they're often afraid to say anything because of the fear of the loss of employment and the financial issues that can result.
  • Superiors in the medical field, which can mean that healthcare professionals are instantly reported to the state medical board.
  • Co-workers, who will generally look the other way, allowing the addiction to continue.
  • Office or hospital personnel, who may be afraid to say anything for fear of the repercussions that can result by doing so.
  • Patients, who will usually report suspected addictions to the clinic's or hospital's superiors, and this can lead to immediate action after reports are made to the state medical board.

It makes sense that it would be so much better for doctors, nurses, technicians and others to take the initiative and get the help they need on their own. Doing so may help to eliminate any long-term problems they may experience down the road.

If you're thinking about getting help for your addiction, and you're a medical professional, there are a couple of different options available to you.

  • 12 Steps programs allow you to get the support you need from a group of your peers, and these groups are available all across the country.
  • Drug and alcohol detoxis generally the first step in the addiction treatment process, and it provides you with the assistance you need to get rid of toxins from your body. If certain types of prescription medications have been your drug of choice, this is definitely an option you'll want to consider.
  • Inpatient treatment is generally what most people need when they want to recover from an addiction, and if you're a medical professional, it's definitely an option you might want to consider.
  • If your addiction is in the earliest stages, you might be able to go to outpatient treatment to get help. This means you'll go to appointments once or twice a week.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment may be appropriate for you if you're not able to go to inpatient treatment, but you still need a high level of support. You'll attend appointments several days a week during the evening hours.

Prescription Opiates: What Do You Do if a Patient is Addicted, and What are the Warning Signs?

Doctors frequently prescribe prescription opiates to their patients, despite the fact that these medications lead to addictions. Patients rely on doctors to help them get and stay healthy, for the most part. However, there are those patients who will take advantage of doctors as a way to get commonly abused prescription medications to feed their substance abuse problems. If you're a physician, and you're seeing a new patient, it's not always easy to tell if they have a history of addiction. This is especially true for those who have taught themselves how to become high-functioning addicts, or for anyone who knows how to cover up their addictions really well.

The issue is that when you see a patient in your office, you want to do your very best to treat his or her condition properly, but given the uncertainty of the situation, how do you know what "properly" really means?

First of all, it can help to know the warning signs of addiction. If this isn't something you've dealt with on a regular basis, it's not always easy to know what to look for. Also, because addiction can present itself in a number of different ways, it may help you to have a refresher on the various signs and symptoms that might be present in someone who has an addiction to drugs, like prescription opiates.

Unfortunately, there are not many doctors who actually treat addictions, and a lot of them don't really know what to look for in order to recognize one. An addiction to prescription opiates is a disease, and it should be treated like one.

Statistics tell us that:

  • 40 million people in the United States who are age 12 and over meet the clinical criteria for addiction.
  • This is more than the number of people who have diabetes, cancer or heart conditions.
  • Another 80 million people fall into the category of risky users, which means that they do not have addictions, but their chronic use of drugs and/or alcohol puts them at a great risk.
  • Only 1 in 10 people who have addictions ever receive the type of help they need.
  • This compares to between 70 and 80% who do receive treatment for other types of diseases.

The fact is that most doctors do not treat addictions, and many of them regularly prescribe the types of medications to their patients that can either cause them to become addicted, or that will further their addictions even more. This is certainly a practice that has to stop, and if you're a physician who is interested in providing the absolute best care to your patients that you possibly can, it's important for you to know what to do.

As a doctor, you have the ability to take notice of the types of drug abuse or addiction warning signs that most people never really notice. Even if you're seeing a patient for the first time, it's important to watch for these and other warning signs that might alert you to the fact that there is an addiction present.

You may notice the following physical signs:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • The appearance of glazed eyes
  • A report of abrupt weight changes - either gaining or losing rapidly
  • Signs of infection within the body
  • Bruises on the body at what might be the drug's entrance site

It's also possible to listen closely as a patient tells his or her history and find hints that there could be a drug addiction present. Some of these signs might include:

  • Talking about the recent loss of a friend or family member because of an overdose.
  • A family history of substance abuse
  • The recent loss of a job
  • Estranged family relationships
  • Recent involvement in criminal activity

Behaviorally, there may be other changes that you notice while you're talking with your patients. Some of these might include:

  • Signs of depression
  • Signs of anxiety
  • Abrupt mood swings
  • Symptoms of lethargy
  • Symptoms of a mental health issue that is undiagnosed

If you notice more than one or two of any of the above signs, you should consider the possibility that there may be an addiction present for this particular patient. He or she may be visiting your office in an attempt to get medications to feed prescription painkiller abuse or addiction.

Whenever you see a patient for the first time, one of the primary items on your list of services is to obtain blood work. Most physicians will check CBC levels, do a thyroid check and a host of other blood work, but most do not order any type of blood tests to check for drug addiction. Getting this information will help you understand the type of addiction you're dealing with so that you know how to proceed.

Of course, you'll have to wait for the results to come back, and if your patient is asking for some type of prescription opiate pain medication, or even another medication that can be addictive, you will want to provide him or her with some type of relief. There are medications you can substitute for addictive drugs and ask the patient to come back for a return appointment if symptoms get worse, or if they persist. This will give you enough time to go over the lab results and plan what your next step should be.

There will be times when you have a suspicion that a patient has an addiction and you get the blood work results only to find that they come back negative. In these cases, use your best judgment as to whether or not you should prescribe opiate pain medications or other addictive drugs for that particular patient.

However, there will also be times when your suspicions are confirmed, and if a patient believes that he or she can obtain prescription opiates by coming to a second appointment, that patient will show up again. If your suspicions are confirmed by positive blood work, it's time to have a talk with your patient about treatment. Please be prepared because many patients will not be willing to listen to what you have to say, and a lot of them will walk out of the room. However, there are those who will stay and hear you out.

Begin by talking about what the results of the blood work showed and express your willingness to help. Your patient may tell you about some of the issues that led to the drug abuse or addiction. Depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions can easily lead people to self-medicate with drugs, and prescription drugs are usually quite easy to obtain. If this is the case, you may want to offer some type of medication to treat the underlying symptom of the addiction, but it's also important to refer the patient for professional treatment.

There are many different types of drug rehab programs, and all patients need different levels of care. If your patient is willing to get help, you can begin by explaining what his or her options are for treatment. These options include:

  • Going to drug detox because it will help with removing the harmful toxins from the patient's body that have been left behind because of drug use. No one should ever attempt to stop using drugs on their own, and detox will make the recovery period much easier and safer.
  • Going to an inpatient treatment program that will provide consistent treatment. 30 days in rehabis generally the norm. Treatment will include counseling, group therapy and other forms of therapy to help with addiction recovery.
  • Opting for a residential treatment facility if the patient is in need of long-term treatment for as long as six months or so.
  • Outpatient treatment if the addiction is relatively mild, or fairly new.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment for patients who have small children at home, or who aren't able to go to inpatient treatment because of work responsibilities.

Talk with your patient about the various options that are available for treatment, and refer to a treatment facility that can offer it.

Just because your patient promises to follow through with getting help for a prescription opiate addiction, that doesn't mean that he or she will. Patients often face a lot of barriers when it comes to seeking help for an addiction. They may be afraid to stop using, or they may feel nervous about what might happen when drugs and alcohol are no longer a part of their lives. They may also be facing serious life issues and challenges, and they feel that the only way to help themselves to escape from them - even if it's just for a little while - is by using drugs.

Following up with your patients is such a critical part of providing them with adequate medical care. It may take a few appointments for you to get them to agree to get treatment for an addiction, or you may find that at the their next appointment, they've gotten help and are in recovery.

Referring Your Patients for Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Undoubtedly, your patient is going to have a lot of questions about what might happen when he or she goes to drug and alcohol rehab. There may be some very valid concerns about whether or not your patient can take off from work to get help, or even about what to expect when treatment begins. You can help to set your patient's mind at ease by having a few, basic answers to these and any other questions.

Types of addiction treatment include:

  • Drug and alcohol detox, which is usually essential for almost everyone who goes to a rehab center for help with an addiction. It is a process that helps by clearing the body of toxins that are left there from the substances that were used. It makes recovery safer, and much easier.
  • Inpatient rehab, which lasts for around 30 days and is usually appropriate for most patients who need treatment for addictions. Inpatient rehab offers a high level of support and removes patients from any temptation to use.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment, which allows patients to live at home, but still get a high level of support while they're in recovery.
  • Outpatient treatment, which is for patients whose addictions are not as serious, or who have completed an inpatient treatment program already.
  • Residential treatment, which is appropriate for patients who need a higher level of care for a longer period of time.

Your patients will appreciate the depth of knowledge that you demonstrate regarding addiction treatment, and you'll be doing them a great service by helping them get the help they need.

If you're a medical professional - such as a doctor, physician assistant or a nurse - you likely come into contact with addicted patients all the time, and you don't even realize it. This is actually quite common in many medical practices and even in emergency rooms. A patient will present with a condition, such as back pain, sleeping problems, or other issues, and your first instinct is to prescribe medications to help. Unfortunately, prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet and Ambien are often given out much more frequently than they should be, and many medical providers are prescribing them without being aware of the possibility that the patient may have a history of an addiction.

Quite often, medical professionals in clinics, doctors' offices and emergency rooms are the first ones to have contact with these patients who have drug-seeking behaviors, and it's important for you to know how to recognize addictions, as well as what to do if you come across a patient who has an addiction.

You may have been put in this position so many times without even knowing it, and it's so important for medical professionals to be aware of how many people in the United States struggle with addictions. America's addiction problem should not be ignored, and there are as many as 80 million people over the age of 12 who are engaging in risky behaviors with substances like prescription drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol.

Doctor-shopping is a practice that is fairly common among those who are prescription drug addicts, or even for those who are addicted to heroin, but who are looking for prescription medications to take as a supplement for that particular drug. They choose to see new doctors all the time because these are professionals who are not familiar with their medical history at all. Quite often, they're hoping that the doctor that sees them will be too busy to worry about any type of addiction, and will just prescribe medications quickly so that he can be on to the next patient.

Many doctors are guilty of doing precisely that, but it's a habit that doesn't have to continue. Whether you're a nurse or a doctor who is seeing a new patient for the first time, it's vital for you to know that assessing new patients for addictions should always be one of your top priorities as a medical professional.

Usually, nurses are the ones who have the very first contact with a new patient, and they actually spend a great deal of time with them at their first appointment with a new provider. Nurses have a unique opportunity to ask questions during the time period when they're going over the patient's history, but they can also use this time to observe various physical and behavioral signs of addiction.

It's important to try and get an understanding as to whether or not the patient is using drugs or alcohol. An alcohol addiction may be present if any of the following are discussed or observed:

  • The patient talks about blacking out temporarily.
  • The patient complains of memory lossor can't seem to remember answers to what should be easy questions.
  • The patient reports frequent alcohol consumption.
  • The patient talks about having headaches, anxiety, nausea or insomnia.
  • The patient appears to have a flushed look with broken capillaries on the face.
  • The patient talks about having black, tarry stools.
  • The patient has trembling hands.

The nurse can also ask questions and listen for answers that point to a history of drug addiction, such as:

  • Reporting that the patient does not currently have a job.
  • Reporting that the patient has dropped out of school.
  • Reporting that the patient doesn't really have any hobbies or extra-curricular activities.
  • Reporting that the patient has animosity with some members of his or her family.
  • Reporting that the patient has a family history of addiction.

Nurses should also be very aware of patients' personal hygiene, any withdrawal symptoms they might be experiencing, and any avoidance about answering any all questions that are presented during the time they talk about the history.

If an addiction is suspected and the patient says that he or she is in need of medications for a specific condition, medications that are not addictive should be recommended or prescribed while blood work is completed to confirm that an addiction is present. A second appointment should always be set up to discuss the results of the blood work.

Some patients may not come back for a second appointment, but there are those who will, simply because of the chance that they'll be prescribed addictive medications. Once you have confirmed that a patient does have an addiction, you'll know what type of substance he or she is addicted to, and you'll know how to proceed. It's important to note that some patients will get up and leave as soon as you start talking about the option of going to addiction treatment, but not all of them will. There are actually many of them who want to get help, but they just don't know where to turn to find it.

A doctor or a physician assistant should be the one to talk with the patient about the option of getting professional treatment for an addiction. If the patient seems to be accepting of the need for rehab, at that point, a referral can be made to a drug and alcohol rehab program that can provide the right kind of treatment that is appropriate for the patient's needs.

Physician Assistants: Signs of Addiction and Abuse Statistics

Did you know that there are many physician assistants that have addictions in the United States?

A physician assistant (or a PA) is a healthcare professional who has the ability to practice medicine as a member of the healthcare team. He or she works with physicians, other PAs and members of the medical staff to provide care to patients. In the United States, PAs receive national certifications and state licenses to practice medicine. They are able to complete their medical training in much less time than it takes to complete the required training to become a doctor.

Physician assistants are a vital part of healthcare organizations across the country. They take a lot of pressure off doctors because of their ability to treat patients, and they can actually provide a lot of the same types of treatment for patients that doctors do. Of course, that also means that they are subject to a lot of the same stressful situations that doctors are subjected to, and that can sometimes have devastating consequences.

Just like doctors, and just like anyone else, physician assistants are at risk for becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. It actually happens much more often than most people realize, although it may be surprising because professionals are almost believed to be immune to the temptation of substance abuse. For a lot of reasons, physician assistants are just as susceptible to becoming addicted as anyone else.

Perhaps you're reading this because you're a physician assistant, and you're concerned because you've been abusing drugs or alcohol. You might even be worried that you have an addiction, but you're not really sure. It's not always possible to identify addictions within yourself, as you are probably aware, but it can help if you know the signs you should be looking for.

Most importantly, if you do have an addiction, it's important for you to get professional help so that you can be treated for it.

PAs and Addiction: Is There a Difference Between Doctors and Physician Assistants?

In order to become a doctor, individuals spend many years investing in their education and training. This allows them to diagnose conditions, determine the right treatment options and prescribe medications.

Doctors will often train for up to 14 years before they are able to get a license to practice medicine or perform surgical procedures. They are board-certified professionals at the national level, and they have to obtain a state license for the state they choose to practice in.

It takes less time and training to become a physician assistant. Even though physician assistants don't have to complete such a rigorous amount of training, they do need a great deal of education.

The qualifications can actually very from one state to another, but for the most part, PAs have to complete a four year degree, and then they have to complete a Physician Assistant program. The completion of this program generally takes about two years.

PAs also have to complete one year of clinical rotation, during which time they gain hands-on medical experience. In order to maintain their positions and their licenses, PAs have to have ongoing educational classes, and they also have to have regular testing of their knowledge in the medical field.

Physician assistants operate under doctors' supervision. They both share in patient care, and PAs are able to:

  • Perform examinations on patients
  • Diagnose illnesses
  • Record patients' medical histories
  • Create and carry out treatment plans
  • Suture patients' wounds
  • Provide counseling to patients

There are actually two main differences between a PA and a doctor. Doctors are usually working without supervision, whereas physician assistants need to be working under the supervision of a doctor. Also, physician assistants are not licensed to perform surgical procedures, although they do often assist with surgeries.

Because their jobs are so similar, the addiction rates among physician assistants are actually very similar to those of doctors.

What are the Statistics for Addictions in Physician Assistants?

It's common to think that physician assistants might be at a much less risk for addictions because their jobs are sure to be less stressful than the job of doctors. However, this is simply not the case at all. Statistics show that there are more than 100,000 medical professionals (PAs included) across the country that are currently suffering with addictions to drugs or alcohol.

Further statistics indicate that:


There could be as many as 15,000 physician assistants across the country that have addictions that need to be treated.


Only about 10% of medical professionals enter treatment for alcohol addictions. Most physician assistants choose to use prescription drugs illegally as their drugs of choice.


Only about 1 in 10 PAs ever seek professional help for chemical dependency. In one study, 69% of the medical professionals who were interviewed admitted to being dependent upon drugs.

Clearly, the drug addiction problem among physician assistants is much more serious than most people know, and more attention needs to be paid to recognizing the signs of addiction so that treatment can be made available to these professionals. The fact is that so many of them will be unwilling to get the help they need on their own.

Because physician assistant's jobs don't appear to be quite as stressful as physicians' jobs, they are perceived as being less at risk for addiction than doctors. While it's true that some of their duties and responsibilities are not the same, it's also true that many of them are at least very similar to each other.

Physician assistants often have to take on heavy patient loads from a supervising doctor because he or she is treating a more critical patient. As patient loads increase, stress levels increase as well. There is a lot that goes into treating one patient, and as that workload is increased, some physician assistants have a difficult time with coping. The stress of heavy workloads is a lot for anyone to take, and PAs are no different. This stress can lead to them looking for ways to decompress at the end of a long day, and sometimes, that includes using substances.

The fact that prescription medications are so easily accessible is another reason why PAs are at a high risk for substance abuse and addiction. The stock of prescription medications within hospitals and clinics is not always accounted for, and it's very easy for them to take medications, claiming to administer them to patients. Most PAs who do this do it not necessarily because of the high they will experience, at least at first. Sometimes they have mental health conditions or physical pain that make it difficult for them to handle getting through a shift. They may feel pressed for time, and be unable to take the time off to see a practitioner for medications to help. The stock at their workplaces is very easy to access, and because they know everything there is to know about the effects the drugs will have on them, self-medicating becomes something that's almost commonplace for many.

When you also consider the fact that PAs are often sleep deprived, spend countless hours away from their families, and have to deal with the stress of making a wrong decision for a patient, all of these come together to create a recipe for addiction. It's not surprising that so many PAs have such a hard time not using drugs or alcohol.

Perhaps you're a physician assistant, or you know someone who is, and you're curious about what the signs of addiction are that you should be looking for. If you're concerned about yourself, it's possible that you're in denial that you have a problem with addiction. You still tend to function fairly well in your job, and you may have a loving family and a nice home.

Those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often become stereotyped, and we forget that addiction can look different for anyone. There are many high-functioning addicts who manage to take care of themselves very well, but they still have addictions that need to be treated.

Some of the signs of addiction that are often observed in physician assistants, as well as in other healthcare professionals are:

  • They may change jobs frequently in an attempt to keep their addictions a secret.
  • They may work during the evening or night hours when there is less supervision.
  • They may volunteer to give narcotics to patients.
  • They may feel nervous about working extra shifts or working overtime.
  • They may use breath mints frequently to cover up the smell of alcohol.
  • They may have glassy eyes or small pupils.
  • They may make a lot of errors in charts or on paperwork.
  • They may frequently get behind on paperwork or with patient appointments.
  • They may take frequent breaks to go to the bathroom.
  • They may have a lot of family stress or financial problems.

Have you noticed any of the above signs of drug impairment within yourself, or within someone you know who is a physician assistant at your work? If you have noticed more than one of these signs, it is possible that you or that individual is addicted to some type of substance; either alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medications.

Just like with doctors who are addicted to substances, there are a lot of barriers to treatment that physician assistants experience as well. They may have very real concerns about losing their jobs because of their addictions, and there is always the concern that they might lose their licenses or certifications because of them. Physician assistants are under supervision by medical doctors, and so, they have to be extremely cautious about not getting caught. Quite often, they've worked really hard to train themselves so that they not only know when the appropriate times to use are, but they also know the effects the drugs will have on them so that they can continue to work without raising suspicions.

Pride is another issue that many physician assistants deal with regularly. For them, admitting that they have an addiction is very difficult because it means that that they're weak. At least, that is the perception they're afraid of. They work in a world of high-powered, educated physicians, and respect is very important to PAs. The risk of losing that respect from their superiors is often enough to keep them from admitting that they need help by going to addiction treatment.

Sometimes family members of PAs know when someone they love has an addiction and this can put them in a very difficult position. Because PAs don't need to be as strict at home, they're more apt to let their loved ones know about the substances they're using, either on purpose or by accident. Even so, families are usually worried about reporting addictions because of the financial difficulties this can cause them if a job is lost, or if their family member has to have his or her license or certification suspended or revoked.

Addicted RNs and Nurses: An Overview

Addicted RNs and nurses treat patients in hospitals, doctors' offices and clinics every single day, and usually, no one is the wiser to their deception. It's no secret that their jobs are difficult. Nurses consistently have to deal with problems and issues that most people would have a hard time doing.

They're trained to be quick, efficient, and effectual multi-taskers that can handle almost any challenge that's thrown their way.

They often find themselves having to take extra shifts, cover for colleagues, and rearrange their entire day just to accommodate the needs of their jobs.

The nursing profession is one that should be honored and admired. Nurses generally spend much more time with their patients than doctors do, and they're often even the first ones to know if a particular patient is struggling and in need of a doctor's immediate attention. Most nurses will say that they love their jobs, and they find their work to be incredibly rewarding. If that's the case, the question is, why are so many RNs and nurses turning to alcohol and drug addictions?

There are a number of reasons, and the way that the system is set up certainly doesn't make it very easy for them to get the help they need when they do become addicted to substances. Aside from the fact that so many nurses live in denial of the fact that they even have addictions, for them to be too afraid to speak out about them means that they are likely to remain in them for years unless they're discovered first.

How about you? Are you an RN or a nurse with an addiction to drugs or alcohol? If you are, then this information might be exactly what you've been searching for. It's important for you to know that you're not alone, and it's vital for you to understand that others share in your reasons for continuing on in your addiction. Even so, addiction treatment help is available for you to quit using.

Nurses and Addiction: What are the Statistics?

One of the questions that may be on your mind is, how many addicted nurses are there in the United States? The numbers are actually quite shocking. Statistics tell us that:


There are approximately 3 million RNs that are currently employed in the United States. About 10% of those RNs are addicted to drugs.


That means that around 300,000 nurses may be struggling with addictions. Prescription medication abuse is much more likely for nurses than addictions to illicit drugs.


In one state, it was discovered that 3 out of 4 nurses who had received disciplinary action had done so because they were RNs with drug addictions. Within those same findings, it was discovered that 28% of nurse suspensions because of drug use had occurred within the last year.

Most patients never dream that their attending nurse might be struggling with an addiction, but as you can see, the problem is definitely there. What you may be wondering is, why are so many nurses turning to addictions? That's an excellent question, and the answer is that there are actually many reasons behind their choices to use substances.

RNs and Substance Abuse: Why are They at Such a High Risk?

Nurses who are diagnosed with substance use disorders have often been using drugs or alcohol for a very long time. Many of them continue to use for years before either coming forward about their addictions, or being caught using while on the job.

Nurses and RNs are a high risk of addictions for a number of reasons, and some of these include:

  • Their jobs are very demanding, and require a high level of concentration
  • They often work long hours, and have difficulty sleeping and waking up
  • The stress of spending so much time away from their families may be causing them to turn to substances
  • Hospitals, doctors' offices and clinics make medications and the tools to administer them very accessible
  • Many nurses suffer with mental illnesses, which they decide to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol

Nurses work vigorous schedules. Many times, they'll work for up to ten days at a time, for 12 hours shifts, and that's only if they haven't agreed to take on any more shifts or hours. Nurses who have addictions will frequently agree to take on many more shifts than they're regularly scheduled to work, and this is because they want to be where the drugs are. Of course, their supervisors don't suspect anything, and they only believe that they have an excellent employee who is a team player, and who really wants to care for his or her patients.

Just as in other high stress professions, the field of nursing is not immune to the issue of alcoholism. Many nurses are influenced by genetics and family alcoholism, and they may have seen family members using alcohol as a way to cope with stress and any other issues they faced. In one study by NCBI, alcoholism in nurses was influenced by a need for acceptance and the inability to cope with stressful situations at work.

Nurses will frequently spend their entire shifts on their feet. They're running from patient to patient, taking care of doctors' orders, assisting with important medical procedures and surgeries, and entering information into their patients' electronic records. Quite often, they barely have enough time to go to bathroom, let alone sit down and take a break to eat lunch or dinner. That type of high-strung work atmosphere frequently leads to anxiety, and alcoholism often occurs as a result of that. Most nurses begin drinking as a way to release some of the tension they feel from a long day at work, or even just on the weekends as a way to unwind when they have a few days off. However, over time, it's common for these occasional binges to become more serious.

Infrequent nights out with friends to relax can quickly turn into secret drinking at home, while they're alone after a shift at work. Over time, these sessions become more frequent, and when they do, many nurses become alcoholics without ever meaning for it to happen.

The idea that so many nurses struggle with addictions might seem to be a crazy one for most people. After all, they're very knowledgeable about the side effects of prescription medications (as well the side effects of heroin and other illegal drugs and alcohol). They know more than most people do about the dangers of these substances, but it turns out that this is actually the problem.

Nurses spend their days being surrounded by drugs like Oxycodone and Dilaudid, and the paraphernalia that are available to administer them. They will often reason with themselves that it's OK because they're using FDA-approved medications. In a way, their knowledge works against them because they know the appropriate dosages, and they also know when to back down to avoid overdosing, or making others suspicious of their addictive behaviors. There are some medical facilities that have strict rules in place about discarding medications that patients aren't using, but for the most part, hospitals and even doctors' offices and clinics are busy places. It's very easy to overlook a missing vial of a medication because there are just too many other things happening at the same time.

Most patients have no idea that so many nurses are battling addictions, and there is such a great deal of deception that occurs behind the scenes. Addicted nurses have learned how to work the system in their favor, and they do it by first gaining their patients' trust. For example, a patient who has spent the last half hour talking with a nurse in the emergency room, sharing stories, laughing at his or her jokes, and appreciating such thoughtful and attentive care is going to end up liking the nurse quite a bit. This is often the persona that the nurse becomes known by, not only to patients, but also to everyone else on staff.

Later on, that same nurse may need to administer medications to that patient via IV. In many cases, IV medications come in vials in fairly small doses, but there is usually some degree of waste that occurs with most of these vials. Typically, nurses with addictions will give patients their medications and then pocket the remaining amount for themselves. However, sometimes nurses will not administer the entire amount of the dose in order to have more for themselves. There are times when the placebo effect kicks in and the patient doesn't even notice. When that doesn't happen, doctors just assume that patients need a higher dose, and nothing is ever said to the nurse who administered the drugs.

Yes, patient deception is very real, and it's happening in hospitals and clinics all over the United States.

Another issue for nurses is the fact that even though doctors and nurses appear to be on the same "team," whether that's in a doctor's office, a clinic or a hospital, there are some separations there. Both doctors and nurses tend to believe that they are the ones in charge of the facility, which creates a division between the two groups of people. If a doctor happens to suspect that a nurse has altered paperwork and stolen prescription drugs, the doctor will naturally report it to the nurse's supervisor. The problem is that nurses who use substances are generally hard-working professionals, and their supervisors are likely to stick up for them, and just brush the issue aside.

The busyness of hospital settings also contribute to addiction problems in nurses as well. There has been a lot done in an attempt to control medications in hospital settings, and even at medical clinics. However, the fact remains that many facilities are understaffed, and their patient populations are just simply too high for them to handle them comfortably. Even so, most facilities have narcotic waste rules, which indicate when a nurse is getting rid of medications, it must be witnessed by another nurse. Although it sounds like an excellent way to protect against the possibility of staff members stealing prescription drugs, most of the time the rule isn't followed appropriately.

Nurses often have to be in many different places at once, and very rarely does one have an extra moment to watch a colleague get rid of a medication in a waste container. What usually happens is that a nurse will report that he or she wasted a medication, and someone else will sign off it either on paper or in the computer afterwards, without ever having actually witnessed anything. This happens all the time, and it allows so many nurses to get away with obtaining prescription drugs without too much worry or concern.

Clearly, the way the system is set up has made it so easy for nurses to continue in their addictions, and many of them do for years, until they either realize that they need to get help, they get caught, or they suffer a serious medical consequence from drug use. Addictions among these professionals are being enabled, and that's something that clearly has to stop.

Because of the fact that nurses come into contact with people who have addictions all the time, they understand what the signs and symptoms of addiction are. They don't want to raise any red flags among their co-workers, doctors, supervisors or patients, and so they're usually quite good at learning how to hide any symptoms. Even so, there are still ways to identify an addicted RN or nurse if you know what to look for.

Maybe you're wondering if your own drug or alcohol use means that you are a nurse with an addiction, or perhaps you're curious about possible substance abuse problems for a family member or co-worker who is an RN. Either way, it can help to know what to look for.

Some of the behavioral signs of addiction for nurses include:

  • Experiencing frequent and severe mood swings
  • Unexplained tardiness or absences from work
  • Increasing illnesses or physical complaints
  • Coming up with elaborate excuses
  • Under or over-performance on the job
  • Having problems with authority
  • Having errors that are poorly explained
  • An increasing amount of accidents or injuries with patients
  • Inappropriately wearing long sleeves
  • Experiencing confusion or memory loss
  • Ordinary tasks take much longer to complete
  • Having problems with relationships at work or at home

Some of the physical signs of addiction for nurses can include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Track marks on the arms
  • Showing signs of drug diversion
  • Poor personal appearance
  • Quick weight loss or gain

If you are someone who works with a nurse who may be addicted to prescription drugs, you can also look for the following indicators that may mean an addiction is present:

  • Broken vials being returned to the pharmacy, which indicate that medications were tampered with.
  • Inappropriate drug choices for patients.
  • Patients are experiencing uncontrolled pain.
  • Patient records don't reconcile with medications administered to them.
  • Missing medications or prescription pads.
  • Prescription drugs, syringes and needles are stored improperly.

Even though many nurses have become good at hiding their addictions, those who are looking closely and watching for certain behaviors will certainly eventually see mistakes being made. It's impossible to cover up an addiction forever, and if you're a nurse with an addiction, please know that you don't have to continue to live that way. Undoubtedly, you wish that there was a way for you to get help, and there actually is.

There are a lot of incentives for you to get the help you need to stop using drugs and alcohol. The first and most important incentive is that in your current state, you're putting patient lives at risk. If you're using drugs or alcohol because you're depressed and you use them as a way to help yourself feel better, finding out that your drug use has caused the death of a patient is likely to be more than you can bear. As a nurse, you want to provide your patients with the absolute best in medical treatment, but it's just not possible for you to do that while you're impaired.

Secondly, if your drug and alcohol use is discovered and you are reported, you could suffer from disciplinary action. It's possible that your employer may terminate your employment, even if you agree to get help for your addiction. The Board of Nursing in your state will also most likely suspend your license, at least temporarily. You will be required to get the appropriate type of addiction treatment at a facility, and your treatment may be mandated for several months.

It is possible for you to eventually have your license reinstated so that you can go back to work, but you will have this incident on your record, which can make it hard for you to secure employment if your previous employer has let you go. The better decision would be for you to opt to take the time off on your own so that you can get the help you need from a drug and alcohol rehab.

Alcohol and Drug Rehab for RNs: What are the Consequences of Not Getting Treatment?

If you choose not to get treatment for your addiction, eventually, you will most likely lose your job and your license permanently. It's not possible to continue to use while you work in the healthcare industry, and even though you may do it for a number of years before anyone finds out, at some point, you may make a mistake that ends badly for you.

There are also some personal implications that can result. Many RNs with addictions have had failed marriages because they refused to get the professional help they needed to recover. If you spend money on drugs or alcohol, this can take a terrible toll on your finances too. The same is true if you lose your job because of your addiction. Your health is likely to suffer as well, and there have been many nurses who thought they were using prescription pain medications, but who ended up using a drug that was hazardous for their health instead.

How to Tell When an RN has an Addiction Problem

Nurses with addictions are actually quite common in hospitals, medical clinics and doctors' offices all across the United States. However, many times their addictions are not discovered for a number of different reasons. That means that a great number of nurses will continue to come to work, placing patients' lives at risk while they're under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Quite often, this can go on for years without anyone suspecting that anything is wrong.

Perhaps you're a nurse with an addiction, or you suspect that you may have an addiction. It's possible that you may even work with a nurse that might have an addiction, but you're just not sure. You're not aware of the various signs you should be looking for in order to confirm that there might be a problem that needs to be addressed, and you need to know how to tell when an RN has an addiction problem. Knowing the signs and symptoms of addiction in nurses can certainly help you, but it's also helpful to know the behaviors you should be looking for as well.

While it stands to reason that there would be a high number of addicted nurses in the United States, most people just don't realize how common it really is. Approximately 10% of all nurses have addictions in the U.S. That means that out of every ten nurses, one of them has an addiction. Most people are surprised to find that the statistic is so high; especially because nurses work in the healthcare field, and they generally see addiction on a regular basis. They know what it can do to people, and they know the effects it has had in their patients' lives.

The amount of knowledge that nurses have in this area is exactly why they are so prone to addictions. Of all of the different types of substances that nurses could use, most of them tend to either drink alcohol or they will use prescription drugs that they obtain from their places of employment. Nurses basically have unrestricted access to prescription drugs, and so for them, it's very easy to get what they need when they want to get high, whether it's on the job or off the job.

It's possible that your main concern is for a co-worker that you've been noticing some strange behaviors from. You may be wondering if he or she has an addiction. It's also possible that you're interested in knowing the symptoms of addiction for yourself because you're just not sure if your substance use has crossed over into addiction. There are many different signs you can look for.

Some of the physical signs of addiction for nurses include:

  • Shakiness or tremors in the hands
  • Complaining of fatigue
  • Exhibiting slurred speech
  • Frequent watery eyes
  • Constricted or dilated pupils
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Stomach problems, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Changes in personal hygiene
  • Weight loss or gain

You also might notice some behavioral changes, such as:

  • Problems with concentration
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Laughing inappropriately
  • Wearing long sleeves in warm weather
  • Complaining of insomnia
  • Impaired judgment regarding their own performance

Other changes you might notice include:

  • Brief, unexplained absences during a shift
  • Making rounds at strange hours
  • Frequent medication errors
  • Becoming isolated from others on the nursing unit
  • Mood changes after breaks
  • Patients may frequently report a lack of pain relief
  • Many instances of wasted narcotics
  • Altered telephone or verbal medication orders

If you notice any of the above happening for you, chances are that you do have an addiction. If you're a nurse and you're concerned about a co-worker who might have an addiction, these are just some of the indicators that a substance abuse problem or addiction might be present. If you're still unsure, it might help to take an addiction quizthat will give you even more information.

For nurses who have addictions, they actually have a very easy time covering their tracks. This is why so many of them continue to abuse drugs and alcohol for such a long time.

For example, a nurse who works the night shift might drink alcohol before going to work because it keeps her going during her shift; at least that is what she tells herself. To cover up the smell, she might have a few breath mints on hand, and because she always seems so happy, her co-workers might never have any suspicion that something is off.

For those who use prescription drugs while they're working, there are so many easy ways for them to obtain them. On some nursing units, there are specific medication nurses whose job it is to handle the dispensing of any and all medications to patients during their shifts. They handle medications in pill form, and they also provide patients with morphine injections, IV medications and other drugs as needed. On other nursing units, nurses are responsible for giving medications to their own patients when they're ordered or as they become necessary. Either way, there are no barriers to nurses getting the prescription drugs they need when they need them.

In these situations, because of the way certain drugs are packaged, nurses can easily take a vial of unused medication home with them that should have been wasted. Or, they can put it in their pockets and use it themselves in the bathroom. Nurses can pocket unused pills for their own personal use, and they will even only give their patients partial doses of medications so that they can keep the rest for themselves.

Where the healthcare industry has largely gone wrong is that they inadvertently allow this type of behavior to continue. Rules for wasting medications are rarely followed, and usually nurses are too busy to watch one another get rid of drugs. Also, when an addiction is suspected and reported, more often than not, nursing supervisors aren't willing to look into the matter further, either because they're so busy or because the report against one of their nurses seems so out of place that they assume it must be a mistake.

It's truly not surprising that there are so many nurses with addictions in America's hospitals and clinics. It's a behavior that has been allowed to continue.

If you're a nurse or another medical professional, and you suspect that someone you work with is abusing drugs or alcohol, the most important thing you can do is not to ignore it. Doing so puts the patients' lives in jeopardy, and it's important for the situation to be brought to light so that the right kind of help can be obtained.

Quick action is what is needed in this type of situation, and some of the steps you should take include:

  • Avoid approaching your co-worker directly because that will usually be met with denial.
  • Talk with a supervisor or someone in management about your suspicions.
  • Don't feel guilty about your suspicions or your actions of reporting the nurse, even if it turns out that you were wrong.
  • Remember that what you're doing is a service to the patients on your unit.
  • Don't discuss your suspicions with anyone else on the unit in order to protect your co-worker's privacy.

Addiction Treatment for Nurses: Being Proactive About Getting Help

If you are an impaired nurse, the best thing you can do for yourself is to get professional help for your addiction. Unfortunately, so many nurses will not do this. Instead, they'll wait until they are caught or reported. This could have a devastating effect on your career and on your personal life.

When you choose to go to drug or alcohol treatment for nurses, you're being proactive, and you're taking the steps you need to ensure your own safety, as well as the safety of your patients. It's likely that your addiction began because of another condition you're dealing with at the same time, and dual diagnosis treatment can help you recover from both of them, giving you a better chance of being successful.

Dentists Who are Addicted: Substance Abuse Really is a Problem

This is a fact that is often quite shocking to people in the general public. Those who work as dentists or in other professional fields are seen as being immune to the issue of addiction, but research has shown that they have just as much risk of becoming addicted as anyone else does. In fact, the American Dental Association states that between 10 and 15% of dentists will struggle with a drug or alcohol problem at some point during the course of their lives, although some sources state that this percentage might be just a bit higher.

Did you know that there are a number of dentists who are addicted in the United States?

A dentist's job is a difficult one. There are so many challenges that he or she faces during the course of the day, and it's often hard for them to leave work at work and transition back into home life once the day is over.

The stress involved with the job is just one reason why so many dentists turn to substances as a way to cope with their jobs and their lives in general. They don't intend to become addicted to anything once they start using, but as time goes on, the addiction takes hold.

Perhaps you're a dentist, and you suspect that you have an addiction. You might be concerned about what this may mean for your future, or you might be wondering how you can get professional help so that you can stop using safely.

It may feel as though there are so many barriers standing in your way and keeping you from getting the help you need. Fortunately, you don't have to continue to feel that way because drug and alcohol rehab for dentists is available to you.

When you consider the fact that in 2003, almost 20 million people in the United States ages 12 and older were using illicit drugs, and even more were considered to have an alcohol problem, it's clear that the substance abuse problem is real. However, we tend to think of those who work in professional jobs as being untouched by addiction or the risk of addiction, and that's just not true. The statistics actually back this up, and they tell us that:

  • Some studies indicate that as many as 19% of dentists become addicted to drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives.
  • The drugs of choice for most dentists are generally alcohol, opiate pain medications and nitrous oxide.
  • For 37% of dentists with addictions, alcohol is their drug of choice.
  • 31% of addicted dentists use prescription drugs as their primary drug of choice.
  • 5% of dentists with addictions use nitrous oxide.
  • Street drugs (such as cocaine or heroin) are used by about 10% of addicted dentists.

It's so hard to believe that there are dentists who do drugs, but the research has been done to confirm it.

If you are a dentist and you believe that you might have an addiction, it's important for you to know that this is not just a problem that you're facing alone. A drug or alcohol addiction can be incredibly lonely, but there are others out there who are just like you. Fortunately, just because you have an addiction, that doesn't mean you need to remain in it for the rest of your life. You can recover from your addiction and experience recovery.

It's actually quite common for dentists to believe that an addiction is something that could never happen to them. They feel that a drug or alcohol addiction is something that afflicts others who might be of a lower social stature, and it could never be something that a professional with so much education could struggle with. After all, they have a promising career ahead of them, they most likely have a loving family, a wonderful home and a bright future.

Addiction does not discriminate, and there is no one who is exempt from experiencing it as long as the right conditions are in place.

If you are a dentist, and you're wondering whether or not you have an addiction, it's important for you to find out for sure. Once you do, you'll be able to know what you can do to get the help you need to recover.

There are certain signs of addiction that you can look for in your own life, and these include:

  • You've recently changed the way you perform some of your daily tasks.
  • You're not as reliable as you once were.
  • You exhibit frequent mood swings throughout the day.
  • You've had legal problems because of your substance abuse.
  • You frequently experience withdrawal when you're working and you're not able to use.
  • You're not paying as good attention your hygiene as you once did.
  • Your home life is suffering because of your alcohol or drug use.
  • You're having financial problems because of the amount of money you spend on drugs or alcohol.
  • You try to hide your substance abuse habits from people in your family, or from your friends.
  • You've become isolated because of your substance abuse.
  • You think about using substances almost constantly.

If any of the above indicators apply to you, then there is a pretty good chance that you have an addiction. Even though it is very true that the line between substance abuse and addiction can be blurred, these behaviors indicate that you have probably crossed that line. If you're still unsure about whether or not you have what would be considered a drug or alcohol addiction, it might be helpful for you to take an addiction quiz. A quiz can give you even more insight into your addictive behaviors and help you understand how serious your problem is, and what you can do to get help.

There are a number of different reasons why dentists are at such a high risk for addiction, and these include:

  • Their Compulsive Personalities: Medical professionals generally have compulsive personalities, and this can predispose them to addiction. Addicts are often obsessive-compulsive, manipulative and controlling, and they seek situations where they find enablers to allow their addictions to continue. Dentists have ample opportunities to do this in the workplace.
  • Business-Related Stressors: There are many sources of stress for dentists in the workplace. They may struggle with getting payments from patients, or they may be constantly dealing with billing issues or staff problems. All of these on top of providing the right kind of dental help for their patients can certainly lead to stress, which increases their risk for addictions.
  • Family Problems: Family problems among dentists are typical, partially because of their long work hours and the time they have to spend away from home.
  • Financial Stress: When you include the cost of operating a practice, the debt associated with dental school and personal finances, it's not surprising that so many dentists have a great deal of financial stress that they're constantly dealing with.
  • The Responsibility of Being Sole Proprietors: 76% of all dentists are sole proprietors, and this is something that is fairly unique to this field. The fact that they are isolated from their peers with the burden of an entire practice on their shoulders can lead to stress as well.
  • The Pressure of Competition: Because so many dentists are sole proprietors, there is additional stress that goes along with this situation. They frequently feel as though they have to compete with others in their area in order to be successful.
  • Unhappiness with Their Jobs: Research shows that only 65% of dentists are very satisfied with their jobs. 6.3% of dentists are unsatisfied, and the remainder fall somewhere in the middle.

All of these issues make dentists prime candidates for addiction, and it's not surprising that so many of them turn to substances as a way to help themselves feel better at the end of a long day. For them, drug or alcohol use is a comfort. It's something they've come to depend on in a world where there are so many unreliable factors.

Regardless of the reasons behind a dentist's turning to drugs or alcohol for solace or comfort, the fact is that he or she can cause a great deal of harm in the process. Dentists tend to see themselves as infallible people, even though some of them lack confidence in their professional abilities at times. The fact remains that they are educated professionals and because of this, they see themselves as being protected from the consequences of addictions. It is possible for a dentist to lose his or her license if an addiction is discovered and not treated right away. A continued, active addiction can lead to loss of a career. It can also lead to a loss of good health. Ongoing drug and alcohol use can eventually cause:

It's important to also note that patients are put at risk every time a dentist who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol offers them treatment. A great deal of damage can be done, and even though dentists tend to think that they are incapable of causing harm under any circumstances, it has happened.

Finally, staff members are harmed when the dentist is struggling with an addiction. When hygienists or office staff suspect that an addiction is present, they may not be willing to speak up about it because they aren't in charge. That can allow the addiction to continue, but it also puts a tremendous amount of stress on staff members, which can lead to mental illnesses. Also, a dentist who is working under the influence runs the risk of being reported by a patient, which puts all staff members' jobs in jeopardy.

Painkillers and other prescription drugs are among the most popular choices for dentists. In fact, there are even dentists who have been cited for writing prescriptions for themselves. Of course, there is a great deal of danger in this, and so, those who are desperate enough find ways to get around it. There have been dentists who have offered to write prescriptions for patients, who then give them the drugs in exchange for free medical treatments. This type of behavior clearly indicates that an addiction is present, but the question is, how does it happen?

For most dentists with addictions to prescription medications, the addiction occurs by accident.

It's possible that very little time is spent on the risk of addiction with prescription drugs while dentists are in school, and even though they know that people do become addicted, they don't believe it could happen to them. Because of the time they spend bent over patients, working on their teeth, it's not unheard of for dentists to struggle with back injuries. These injuries are often treated with pain medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone, and when the drugs are taken for too long, they can result in addictions. Dentists may also increase their dosages on their own without talking to a doctor first, which means that their risk of becoming addicted to these drugs increases.

A dentist who is under the influence of prescription drugs is dangerous, and puts his or her patients at risk with every single procedure.

Alcoholism and Dentists: The Silent Epidemic

As far as drug dependence among dentists goes, alcohol is the substance that is most widely abused, and as was previously mentioned, 37% of addicted dentists use alcohol as their substance of choice. Using alcohol is something that most likely started to become a habit during dental school. However, anyone who would be considered an alcoholic today has a high likelihood of starting the use of alcohol during the high school years.

Alcohol is something that appears to be relatively benign. It's something that is offered in social settings on a regular basis, and it's often used as a way to relax, unwind and socialize with friends. It's available almost anywhere, and for these reasons, it's difficult to believe that it could really cause much harm, even when it is being used excessively.

This is the trap that many dentists fall into, and it's one of the reasons why alcoholism has become a silent epidemic; not just among dentists, but among the public in general as well.

Dentists in particular usually feel as though they have every right to drink alcohol, and they cite a number of reasons for it. They often suffer from headaches, indigestion, fatigue, dizziness and stomach problems. 60% of dentists claim that they feel tense and stressed most of the time, and the reasons for these woes usually center around the fact that they struggle so much with their patients.

Patients often complain about sloppy work by their dentists, or they have a hard time cooperating when they're in the dentist's office. Dentists feel compelled to offer their patients a pain-free dental experience, but that's not something that's always able to be delivered. When you consider the fact that dentists have the second highest suicide rate among all professions, it's not surprising that they often turn to alcohol as a way to cope.

Alcoholism does not start with just one drink. Moderate drinking is fairly normal unless there are certain risk factors in place. For dentists who choose to use alcohol regularly, the issue is that they have partaken of so much of it, and used it so often that they form a dependence upon it. Alcohol becomes something that they need instead of something they enjoy on occasion, and this has become a very serious problem.

Do You Have an Addicted Dental Colleague? If So, Learn What You Can Do

If one of your colleagues is an addicted dentist, you may feel as though your hands are tied. If it is a fellow dentist, it will be much easier for you to bring the topic up in conversation than if the individual is your superior. Either way, most addicts need to be confronted about their behaviors before they will be willing to make a change. This is certainly something to keep in mind.

If you do plan to have a conversation about the substance abuse problem, start by bringing up certain changes in behaviors that you have noticed.

Express your concern and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Don't be surprised if your words are met with denial. This is very common. If you can see that the person is not self-motivated to get treatment for the addiction, then it might be time to do something a bit more drastic. The next step should be to report him or her to the State Board. Doing so might be one of the hardest things you have ever done, but it could potentially save a multitude of patients from being harmed at the hands of an impaired dentist.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Dentists: Barriers to Getting Help

Dentists will often cite a number of different reasons why they are not able to get help for their addictions. These reasons include:

  • Not being able to take time off to go to rehab.
  • Being unable to afford to close the practice during treatment.
  • Feeling as though the addiction is something that he or she can heal from without professional treatment.
  • Having financial problems that prevent him or her from being able to cover the cost of treatment.
  • Not wanting to be open and honest about the presence of an addiction.

While many of these objections can be overcome, in the mind of the addicted dentist, they are very real. Even so, going to addiction treatment is the only way that healing can take place. Without the proper type of professional help, the addiction is very likely to continue.

There are a lot of obvious benefits to going to alcohol and drug rehab for dentists, and these include improved overall health, a better practice atmosphere for the dentist as well as for staff, happier patients and improved finances. Still, many in the dental profession are afraid that if they admit to having an addiction, they will face disciplinary actions from the State Board. However, this is not true at all.

Regardless of what state you are from, if you agree that you need to be treated for an addiction, your license will not be revoked.

As long as you get the right kind of treatment, you will be able to return to work once that treatment has been completed. This is definitely the biggest benefit of recovery.

Privacy is certainly a major concern for dentists who need addiction treatment, and they're right to be concerned about that. There have been many instances of dentists who have gone into treatment, and once the other patients found out they were dentists, their privacy was compromised. For this reason, a dental professional might want to opt for a smaller, privately owned drug and alcohol rehab instead of a larger facility or a state run center.

It is also important to remember that there are other characteristics you should be looking for as well. The facility you choose should be accredited, there should be 24 hour nursing care available, they should offer drug and alcohol detox services, and they should participate with your health insurance company.

Many dentists are struggling financially, and this is especially true for dentists who have addictions because a large amount of their money goes to support their drug or alcohol habits. For this reason, they often feel that there is no way for them to be able to afford going to professional treatment.

There are a number of different resources available to you if this is the way you feel about your own situation. First of all, if you have health insurance, your health insurance is required to offer you benefits toward drug and alcohol rehab because of the Affordable Care Act. However, the entire cost of your treatment might not be covered, which could leave you with some money to pay out of pocket.

If that is the case, the ADA does offer loans to help cover either the entire cost of your treatment, or the remainder that might be left after your insurance covers most of it.

You might not have been aware that so much financial assistance was available to help you complete your treatment at a formal substance abuse treatment facility, and maybe that takes a burden off your shoulders. Help is available to you, and it can be affordable for you as well.

It's hard to believe that there are hygienists who are addicted in the United States, but even though these individuals are professionals, they are just as susceptible to becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol as anyone else is.

Still, there has been so much research done on dental hygienists, and their job is known to be among the best in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. In fact, it is a field that experts believe is going to grow as much as 19% by the year 2024. That means many more jobs will be becoming available, and there will be many more students entering programs to become licensed in this field.

How can it be possible that someone who is a dental hygienist might be struggling with an addiction? Perhaps you are a hygienist and you have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, so you know all about how possible it is.

Regardless of how good a job is, there are so many factors that can come into play that can make it difficult to avoid falling prey to an addiction. If you currently work in this field, and you believe you might have an addiction, it's important for you to know that you're not alone.

It's common for people to believe that individuals who hold professional licenses are somehow less susceptible to having addictions than those who don't. This is certainly a myth, and some of the most high-powered professionals in the world are struggling with addictions to drugs or alcohol behind closed doors. While dental hygienists are not exactly high-powered professionals, they are individuals who hold licenses, and the fact is that they have just as much risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol as anyone else. With that in mind, statistics tell us that:

  • In 2009, 23.5 million people who were over the age of 12 needed treatment for a drug or alcohol use problem that year.
  • Only 11.2% of those who needed treatment received it.
  • Most treatment admissions (41%) in 2008 were for alcohol abuse.
  • Of all treatment admissions during that year, heroin and other opiate addictions accounted for about 20% of them.
  • These were followed by marijuana admissions at 17%.

Clearly, addiction is a problem, and if dental hygienists are considered to have the same risks as the rest of the population, then it makes sense to assume that these statistics apply to those who work in this field as well.

Approximately 10% of the nation's hygienists who are actively working right now are struggling with some type of addiction. This means that not only are they putting themselves, their health and their careers at risk, they are also putting their patients at risk every time they treat them.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Hygienist: What Makes Them Susceptible to Addiction?

Research shows that the dental field is growing, and because of that, there will be many new jobs available for recent hygienist graduates. While it's true that there are a lot of pros to this career, the cons should not be ignored, and it is the cons that contribute to their susceptibility to addiction.

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons.

Some of the pros to being a hygienist include:

  • The growth of employment opportunities.
  • A great salary - some make close to $33 an hour.
  • There is minimal education required.
  • The job can be very flexible.
  • The patients are usually very cooperative and easy to work with.

Some of the cons to being a dental hygienist include:

  • There is not much career variety available.
  • There really is no room for advancement.
  • The job can be repetitive and boring at times.
  • There are occasionally unpleasant patients.
  • The work environment can be stressful at times.

For a dental hygienist, the career they are in when they finish their education is usually as high as they can go, unless they go back to school. This can be stressful, and it also puts a limit on how much money they can make. Even though there are patients who enjoy seeing the hygienist because visits are usually pleasant, there are patients who make the job more difficult.

When you add in these factors along with the various stressors that could be weighing down on the individual from his or her personal life, it's easy to see why some might choose to de-stress or decompress by turning to alcohol or drugs.

When this occurs, an addiction is very likely.

One of the qualities that many people with addictions share is that they tend to spend the majority of their days impaired. They often go to work after they've been using, or they may use during their breaks or on their lunch hours. This is a very big problem for someone who works in a professional position, and dental hygienists are no exception to that.

For a dental hygienist who is working under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they run the risk of doing serious damage to their patients. The instruments they use are capable of causing injuries if they aren't being used correctly, and the tissues that are being worked on are very delicate. Intense focus is needed, even during the most routine cleaning session, and when that focus is allowed to slip, accidents can happen.

Of course, there are also dangers for hygienists in their personal lives as well. They could easily have legal problems because of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They also run the risk of developing serious medical problems because of their substance abuse.

For most hygienists, there are a few reasons why they want to avoid getting treatment. Doing so means that they would have to admit that they have a problem with substances, and that's something they don't want to do. They may fear a number of different things, including:

  • Whether or not they will lose their licenses.
  • Whether or not they will lose their jobs.
  • Being able to financially provide for their families.
  • Taking time off from work to go to treatment.
  • Being considered at outcast among their coworkers because of their dependence on drugs or alcohol.

Perhaps you can relate to these hesitations because you've also thought them. Fortunately, there are usually concessions made for hygienists who need to go to drug or alcohol rehab, and coworkers will probably be much more supportive than you think.

If you have a coworker who is an addicted hygienist, it can be so difficult to know what to do. You know the signs of addiction, and you can see them clearly, but how can you help your coworker seek treatment?

You can attempt to have a conversation with him or her about the situation, but if this is the route you choose, you should be prepared to be met with denial. Most people do not want to admit that they have addictions because they don't want to get treatment. If your attempts at talking about the problem fail, the next step is to go to a superior. In many cases, this would be the dentist who owns your practice. Talk with him or her about your suspicions, and ask that you remain anonymous if you're more comfortable with that. The dentist will know what to do once he or she is made aware of the situation.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab for Dental Hygienists: What You Should Look For

It's possible that one of the reasons why going to drug or alcohol rehab doesn't seem all that appealing to you is because you're nervous about going to a large facility where you won't know anyone.

You may wonder how that type of treatment could help, and the fact is that it isn't beneficial for everyone.

Instead, you would probably be more comfortable in a setting that is geared toward professionals, and that only has a small number of patients at any one time. This type of setting will provide you with the one on one support that you need during this critical time in your life, and it's important that you get personalized attention as you recover.

Choosing a smaller drug and alcohol rehab will allow you to feel much more comfortable as you seek treatment.

It is possible that you're not completely sure that you have an addiction that needs to be treated. If that's the case, taking an alcohol or drug addiction quiz might be very helpful for you. You can also ask yourself some questions, and answer them honestly, such as:

  • Am I using drugs or alcohol as soon as I wake up in the morning?
  • Have I ever been intoxicated or high while I was working?
  • Have my coworkers talked with me about having an addiction problem?
  • Do I try to hide my drug or alcohol use from others?
  • Is my drug or alcohol use starting to affect my performance on the job?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you most likely do have an addiction that needs to be treated. Admitting this is hard, but it will be the best decision you ever made.

Pharmacists with Addictions: The Risks of This Profession and Recovery for Addicts

While it might seem odd to many, there are a large number of pharmacists with addictions in the United States.

This fact is usually baffling to most people. After all, these are educated individuals who are all tasked with the job of dispensing helpful and in some cases, lifesaving medications to those who need them on a daily basis.

It seems absurd that this group of people would be susceptible to addiction. Even so, they are, and because of the unique circumstances of their jobs, they are often much more susceptible than those in the general population.

There are so many risks associated with being a pharmacist, and unless you have ever been in this position, it's impossible to understand how easy it is to fall prey to an addiction. Fortunately, there is something that can be done about it if you are battling an addiction and you work in this field.

If you're a pharmacist and you also have an addiction, you might be experiencing a multitude of emotions.

You may be torn between wanting to stop using and being afraid to say anything to bring attention to your deception. You may be concerned about the safety of your job and whether or not you'll even be able to handle the job if you're not using drugs or alcohol. Regardless of what your personal situation is, and regardless of what your personal feelings are, getting professional help is the most important thing you can do for yourself. It is possible to recover from an addiction, and recovery is certainly something you should consider; both for your own health and wellbeing, as well as for the safety of the people who entrust their prescriptions into your care.

Addicted Pharmacists in the United States: Statistical Evidence of a Problem

Those who work in the medical field usually take much better care of themselves than those who don't. However, that does not mean that they are immune to addictions. Quite the opposite, actually. Medical professionals such as doctors and pharmacists have a vast amount of knowledge about various substances and how they can affect the body and brain. This fact alone makes them more susceptible. When you consider the fact that pharmacists have incredible access to all kinds of prescription drugs, it's easy to see how they might become addicted to them.

The statistics back this up. In fact, according to the American Pharmacists Association:


In 1998, it was reported that 19% of practicing pharmacists classified themselves as either occasional or regular users of controlled substances without a prescription. By 2004, that number had increased, and close to 60% of pharmacists reported to using a non-prescribed drug at least one time.


One study indicated that pharmacists had the highest rate of opioid dependence at 83%. As many as 21% of pharmacists have misused their own prescription medications at least one time.


As many as 28% of student pharmacists have reported using marijuana. Student pharmacists also reported frequent use of other types of substances, including amphetamines, cocaine, sedatives and opioids.

These statistics might seem shocking, and they are. What might seem most confusing is, how can individuals who have so much knowledge regarding medications and substances have such a high addiction rate? Many believe that this is mostly due to the fact that there is very little time spent on addiction risks for student pharmacists as they are learning. In fact, there are many instances where some pharmacies have even been accused of encouraging illicit drug use among their employees, which is quite surprising.

Types of Substances Pharmacists Often Use: Legal and Illegal

An addiction can occur at any point once abuse has begun, and it's different for every person, and every substance. Once an addiction has taken hold, it's not possible for users to stop. In fact, they feel compelled to use their substance of choice, whether that's prescription medication, illegal drugs or alcohol.

There are many substances that pharmacists use, and while some are much more common than others, they all have a profound impact on the brain.

  • Alcohol: Like those in other professions, pharmacists will often use alcoholas a way to decompress after a long day at work. There's no doubt that working as a pharmacist is a stressful job that requires great attention to detail, and many pharmacists find themselves becoming addicted to alcohol without meaning for it to happen.
  • Marijuana: Marijuana is one of the most widely used substances in the United States, and so, it stands to reason that pharmacists would choose to use it as well. As many as 28% of pharmacy students reported using marijuana.
  • Cocaine: Cocaine might be less common that other drugs, but it is one substance that can lead to an addiction almost immediately. As many as 13% of pharmacy students reported using cocaine.
  • Amphetamines: Amphetamines are often used as a way to stay awake, and they can quickly become addictive. Pharmacists have easy access to these medications, and 6.8% of pharmacy students admit to using them.
  • Opiates: Opiatemedications are among the most popular drugs for pharmacists to use illegally, and the same is true for pharmacy students. As many as 5.1% use them.

It makes sense that pharmacists would gravitate toward the types of drugs that they knew the most about, and that they have the most control over. For this reason, prescription drug addiction is actually the most common problem among pharmacists. Because of their easy access to these drugs, and because of the way their systems are set up, pilfering prescription medications of all kinds is simple, and it's prevalent among those in this field.

For years, health professionals of all kinds have been identified as having a special risk for developing substance abuse disorders.

Pharmacists are even more vulnerable than those in other positions because of certain job-related issues and because they have increased access to prescription drugs. In fact, addiction has been referred to as an occupational hazard for those in this field.

There are a number of reasons why pharmacists might be more susceptible to addictions than those in other aspects of the healthcare field, and these include:

  • Because of the stress they experience on the job.
  • Because they may have cultivated a history of addiction during pharmacy school.
  • Because they may have become addicted to prescription drugs when they were using them for medicinal purposes.
  • Because of feeling dissatisfied with their jobs.
  • Because of how easy it was for them to access these medications.
  • Because they witnessed others using prescription drugs in illegal ways.

There are a number of factors that come into play regarding how easy it is for pharmacists to misuse prescription drugs. While it is true that they have easy access to these drugs, and most pharmacists admit that this was the primary contributing factor, the culture of the pharmacy is also to blame - at least in part - for the number of addicted pharmacists in the United States.

Within many pharmacies, there is what is known as a culture of tolerance. In one study, pharmacists admitted that taking medications from the pharmacy was considered by most to be a perk of the job. There were even those who confirmed that this behavior was encouraged and supported by their supervisors. In these situations, there was an unwritten code among those in the pharmacies that nothing would be said about the missing medications, and everyone made an agreement to cover for one another in case anyone raised a suspecting eyebrow in a particular person's direction.

It should also be mentioned that drug testing in pharmacies is generally not something that happens on a regular basis. Some pharmacies may require drug tests upon employment, but even this is a rarity. Also, pharmacies will often not keep regular pill counts, and missing medications might not be discovered for several months after they were taken. These two facts together mean that it's even easier for pharmacists to become addicted, and it's not surprising that so many of them do.

In a situation where little is known about the various risks of addiction, where the warning signs of addiction are not taught, and where these behaviors are allowed and even encouraged to continue, it should not come as a surprise that so many pharmacists struggle with addictions.

What is at Risk for Pharmacists Who are Addicted?

There is so much at stake for pharmacists who are addicted to prescription drugs, or any other type of substance for that matter. These are individuals who are entrusted with the safety and health of their patients, in much the same way that a doctor is entrusted with them. When a pharmacist is working under the influence of any type of substance, there's no telling what could happen.

Not only do addicted pharmacists run the risk of legal charges if they make a mistake when preparing a prescription incorrectly, but it is also possible for them to lose their licenses if an addiction is suspected.

This certainly creates a problem for coworkers who might suspect that an addiction is present, but not know what to do about it. This happens so frequently in pharmacies, and unfortunately, the tendency in many cases is to look the other way. Perhaps the "unwritten code of silence" comes into play, or maybe the coworker is just afraid of saying anything.

Whether you are someone who suspects that a coworker has an addicted, or you're an addicted pharmacist yourself, it can help to know what the consequences are of addictive behaviors.

In most cases, supervisors will go to the individual and confront him or her about the substance abuse. At that point, a recommendation will be made for treatment. Today, there has been a great deal of research that has been done that indicates that pharmacists actually do very well in professional treatment, and their outcomes are very good when compared to the general population.

Of course, there are always situations where people remain in denial regarding their addictions, and in these cases, they will refuse treatment. When this occurs, and when the suspicion of addiction is confirmed, the state can opt to revoke the pharmacists license and employment can be either permanently terminated or temporarily terminated until the appropriate type of treatment is sought.

In way, pharmacists may be afraid of getting treated for their addictions. There are most likely a number of different factors that they see as barriers to treatment, and these include:

  • Being afraid of losing their licenses in the state where they practice.
  • Being afraid of losing their jobs if they admit to having an addiction.
  • Being afraid of the stigma that can go along with admitting you have an addiction among your coworkers.
  • Being fearful of how they will cope with the job if they do not have drugs to fall back on.
  • Feeling as though they don't really have addictions because they lack the training on what an addiction is.
  • Feeling as though getting clean won't change anything because of the environment they work in.

For pharmacists, their risk of addiction is great, and it's not surprising that far too many of them seek treatment when they really need it. In so many cases, addictions are allowed to continue, regardless of the risks they pose to the general public, as well as to the pharmacists themselves.

Perhaps you're experiencing these or other barriers to treatment, and you've allowed them to get in the way for quite some time. It's never too late for you to make a change, and it would be best for you to make that decision now, rather than later.

If you are considering getting treated for your addiction, it can be helpful for you to know the various types of treatment that are available to you. Knowing your options can assist you in making the right decision that will work the best for you.

  • Detoxification - Drug and alcohol detox is usually the first step in recovery, depending on what type of substance you use. If you are an alcoholic, alcohol detox is critical for you because it will help you to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms. If you have been using prescription drugs, detox will allow you to taper down your dosage slowly and eventually stop using them altogether safely.
  • Inpatient treatment - This is usually done in a 30 day clinic, and treatment will involve counseling and group therapy, as well as other types of therapeutic methods.
  • 12 Step Meetings- These are meetings that you can go to on an outpatient basis, and they will help you by introducing you to others who are in similar situations because of their addictions.
  • Residential treatment - If your addiction is severe, and it is determined that you need treatment that lasts longer than 30 days, residential treatment might be recommended for you.
  • Outpatient treatment- There are different types of outpatient treatment, and traditional outpatient care is usually for those who have completed an inpatient stay. Intensive outpatient programs are for those who need a higher level of care, but who are not able to go to inpatient treatment for a number of reasons.

Regardless of what type of treatment you receive, getting professional help is the best way to protect your career and recover from your addiction.

Alcohol and Drug Rehab for Medical Professionals: The Aftermath

Once you get addiction treatment, you're going to find that so much about your life is going to change. Not only will your personal and professional lives be improved, but if you choose to get help on your own, it's likely that you'll be able to avoid a lot of the consequences that can arise for addicted healthcare workers. You will have learned how to live your life drug or alcohol free while you were in treatment, which opens up so many great possibilities for you.

If you get help for your addiction because you were required to do so, you may find it to be a bit more difficult to manage. You'll need to get your medical license reinstated, and you may have to endure a very long period of counseling and monitoring by the medical board in your state.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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