The Dangers of Addiction for Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers are at particular risk for drug and alcohol addiction. Treatment can be especially tricky.

In many cases, people with drug addiction problems or alcoholism don’t seek treatment until they receive a “wake up call.” This could be as the result of receiving a DUI or making another serious lapse in judgment relating to their drug or alcohol abuse. While this can be very dangerous for any person to get to this point, it can be especially tricky when dealing with healthcare providers. Because of the unique nature of their work, their actions while abusing drugs and alcohol can have a particularly adverse impact on others.

Drug treatment for healthcare providers is on the rise. Recent studies have suggested that healthcare professionals are 10 to 12 percent more likely to have drug and alcohol problems than the general population. This number can be explained for a variety of reasons. Healthcare professionals have extremely stressful jobs which often include dealing with traumatic incidents. In addition, doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers can work long hours and spend time away from their family, increasing the stress placed on their lives.

While drug and alcohol rehabilitation can be necessary for anyone who works in healthcare, there are certain specialties which have been shown to be particularly at risk for addiction problems. One of these specialties is anesthesiology. A recent study suggested that while anesthesiologists make up only five percent of the total population of healthcare providers, more than 10 percent of all healthcare professionals with addictions are anesthesiologists or work in related fields. In particular, anesthesiologists are susceptible to prescription drug abuse including powerful opioids like fentanyl and sufentanil.

When a healthcare professional checks into a drug rehab center, it can pose a particular set of challenges to the staff. Healthcare professionals typically have more denial about their addiction problems than the average person and frequently are forced into treatment in order to keep their license rather than entering on their own. In addition, they are highly intelligent people who understand the process. They can attempt to manipulate the initial intervention and evaluation process.

If a healthcare provider is in a position of power within the practice, they can intimidate their staff to keep them from forcing them to seek help. Many doctors can also use their credentials as a way to “threaten” the staff at a drug rehab facility in order to delay treatment. Counselors who work with healthcare providers struggling with addiction need be aware of the tactics that might be used and how to best solve any unique problems which might arise during treatment.