The most common cause of impairment in physicians is addiction. Doctors are more likely to misuse prescription drugs than their patients, studies suggest. “An estimated 10 percent of health care professionals abuse drugs — about the same rate as the general public.” (DrugRehab.com, https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/common-professions/ )
Doctors abuse drugs for various reasons:
- Increased drug availability, making them easily accessible
- To relieve stress
- Pain Management
- To treat anxiety and depression
- Recreational Use
- To avoid withdrawal symptoms from other substances
A 2009 study compared drug use by different types of doctors, and found that psychiatrists and emergency room doctors use drugs the most, surgeons the least.
“The study also revealed:
- Emergency room doctors used the most illicit drugs
- Psychiatrists used the most benzodiazepines
- Pediatricians had low rates of drug use
- Surgeons had low rates, except for tobacco smoking
- Anesthesiologists had high rates of opioid abuse”
A 2012 study found 15.4% of surgeons suffered from alcohol abuse. Female surgeons were more likely to exhibit symptoms of alcohol addiction than male surgeons. “The consequences of the alcohol problems were frightening. Surgeons who reported feeling burned out or depressed were the most likely to have an alcohol use disorder, as were surgeons who reported making a major medical error within the previous three months.”
How the general public can identify an impaired doctor or nurse:
- Smell of alcohol
- Excessive sweating
- Slurred speech or tremors
- Difficulty walking
- Lack of coordination
- Memory impairment
Why the Silence by Colleagues?
A 2010 study showed that 17% of 1,891 physicians who were surveyed knew of an impaired or incompetent doctor within the past three years. However, only 67% reported their colleagues to proper authority. Physicians working in small practices are even less likely to report an incompetent colleague.
Reasons doctors gave for not reporting:
- They thought someone else was doing it
- They believed their reporting would not make a difference
- Fear of retribution
- They didn’t think it was their responsibility
- They didn’t want their colleague to get in trouble
- They didn’t know how to report
In most states, addicted physicians can get help through a confidential physician health program (PHP), which allows them to seek help without disclosing their identity to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Studies report that PHP’s are more successful than alternative plans. PHP’s offer a “full continuum of care and a detailed treatment plan backed by support groups such as AA or NA.” (DrugRehab.com, https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/doctors/ ) The program is usually five years in duration, and is open to residents, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians.
After Treatment, Can They Go Back to Work?
Physicians can return to work, “with proper monitoring, a solid addiction recovery program and enrollment in a PHP.” The PHP will ensure compliance by a physician using a contract.
The good news is a Mayo Clinic Study shows that physicians in recovery have between 74% and 90% abstinence rates. This is most likely due to their determination to keep their license.
CONTACT THE LAW OFFICES OF DAVID L. HOOD FOR A FREE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CONSULTATION
If you or someone you care about has suffered because of medical negligence, please schedule your free consultation by calling the Law Offices of David L. Hood at (843) 491-6025 or filling out our brief online contact form.
We know how difficult it can be to deal with the immediate and long-term effects of a serious malpractice-related injury. At the Law Offices of David L. Hood, we work hard to make things simple for you. After a free case evaluation, if we believe we can help you and your family, Medical Malpractice Attorney David L. Hood, co-counsel, and our team of experts will vigorously pursue your case to get you the best result we can achieve. Let us put years of experience to work for you!
*Clients are not liable for any expenses, unless there is a recovery in their case; however, if there is a recovery in their case, clients will be liable for expenses. Attorney’s fees are based on a percentage of the recovery, which will be computed before deducting expenses.
Other online references used in this article: