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Becoming a doctor is often referred to as a calling. The road to earning that “M.D.” after your name requires years and years of study and training. Few other career choices demand the level of sacrifice and dedication it takes to become a doctor.
But along with the nice salary and prestige comes a great deal of stress. People from all walks of life and careers may use a substance as a way of reducing jobs, and this includes doctors. When a physician develops a substance use disorder, they’ll find the help they need at a private rehab for doctors.
Doctors that Struggle with Substance Abuse or Addiction
In general, doctors struggle with substance misuse at about the same rate as the general public. However, when it comes to opioid abuse (prescription painkillers), doctors have a significantly higher rate than the public.
Lisa Merlo, Ph.D. published her research about this problem in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. She found that out of the 55 physicians studied with substance use disorders, 60% misused opioids. Another report states that in excess of 100,000 doctors, nurses, and other medical experts have substance use disorders, mostly opioids.
Certain doctors have higher rates of substance abuse. These tend to be those in high-stress specialties, with emergency room doctors having the highest stress levels.
Why Do Doctors Become Addicted?
One of the main reasons doctors have high rates of opioid misuse is simply having access to the drugs. Eighty-four percent of doctors practice self-prescribing, where a doctor prescribes drugs for him or herself. Many doctors admit to beginning their substance abuse after obtaining their self-prescribing privileges.
Some data suggest that medical workers are more prone to using a substance to self-medicate than many other professions. Not only do they need to manage stress, but may also look for a way to handle the emotional toll. According to Lisa Merlo’s research, the following factors were cited as reasons for doctors self-medicating:
- Pain. Doctors are like other patients who may develop an addiction to prescription pain meds after surgery or injury.
- Stress. Doctors begin to rely on substances to ease work and life stressors.
- Mental health issues. Doctors who struggle with anxiety and/or depression are more prone to self-medicating using available drugs.
- Effects of the job. Doctors may struggle with trauma, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation due to the demands of the job, leading them to self-prescribe.
Risks Posed by Doctors with Substance Use Disorder
The misuse of substances by doctors is fairly prevalent. This indicates that patients may be placed under the care of a doctor that’s under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Because doctors perform surgeries and dispense meds, a doctor with a substance use problem can potentially endanger a patient’s life.
Some of the signs that a doctor is engaging in substance abuse are:
- Patient and staff complaints about behaviors.
- Excess absences from work.
- Taking long breaks during a shift.
- Shows up to work on days off to access the dispensary.
- Forgets deadlines or appointments.
- Insists in administering injected drugs to patients.
- Drug shortages in the department.
- Worsening writing, record keeping, and charting skills.
- Mood swings.
- Lack of impulse control.
- Spending much time in the area of the drug supply.
- A decline in hygiene.
- The trouble with memory, and mental confusion.
- Hand tremors.
- Excessive sweating.
Sometimes a doctor or nurse may divert the drugs from the patient, and use the drug for themselves. Patients are not aware of what the doctor has prescribed for them and are at the mercy of the nurse or doctor to receive the correct dose. In this event, the patient can suffer needless pain and discomfort as a result of not receiving the complete dosage.
A surgeon who is on drugs may injure a patient or end up giving them the wrong meds or dosage. These errors point to the need for the physician to secure treatment. Enrolling in a private rehab for doctors provides the guidance and support needed to break the grip of addiction.
Signs of an Opioid Use Disorder
Doctors have easy access to opioids, stimulants, and sedatives. This access may overwhelm them, even more so if they are dealing with fatigue or pain. In the long run, this can result in addiction.
The most commonly abused drugs by doctors are in the opioid class of drugs. Signs of opioid use disorder include:
- Extreme drowsiness or nodding out.
- Pinpoint pupils.
- Chronic constipation.
- Muscle pain.
- Blurred vision.
- Skin rash.
- Slowed breathing rate.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Itchy skin.
- Being obsessed with getting the drug.
- Self-prescribing high quantities of opioid pills.
- Stealing pain pills from a dispensary.
- Increased tolerance.
- Isolating behaviors.
- Mood swings.
- Mental confusion.
- Irrational fear.
If you are a doctor and notice these symptoms in yourself, you should not delay in seeking out treatment. The sooner you address the substance problem and get help, the better the outcome.
What to Expect at a Private Rehab for Doctors
When a doctor (or nurse) is struggling with substance use, they will benefit from a multi-dimensional treatment approach. A comprehensive treatment program includes a wide range of interventions, such as:
- Medical detox. During detox, the remaining substance is purged from the body. Trained detox experts provide medical support to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. For prescription pill detox, a tapering plan will be started to slowly ease the person off the drug.
- Individual therapy. Using evidence-based therapies, like CBT and DBT, the doctor will learn how to change behavior patterns.
- Group therapy. Small group therapy sessions encourage peer support through the sharing of personal experiences, feelings, and challenges.
- Family therapy. Family-focused counseling provides family members with a chance to begin healing and to move forward in a positive manner.
- Education. The doctor will learn about how the addiction process works and how drugs impact the brain.
- Treatment for a mental health disorder. If the doctor also has a mental health issue, they will need a dual diagnosis treatment program. These are specialized programs that treat both the substance use disorder and the co-occurring mental health disorder.
- Adjunctive. Treatment is enhanced with holistic activities like yoga, massage, mindfulness, and art therapy.
Rehabs Malibu Residential Private Rehab for Doctors
Rehabs Malibu provides premier addiction treatment services for doctors that struggle with substance use disorder. For more details about our luxury program, please reach out to us today at (424) 425-3541.