Healthcare Professionals and Drug Abuse
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: April 13, 2021

People with addiction are often portrayed as hopeless or hedonistic rock stars. Rarely are media articles about substance use disorders accompanied by images of well-dressed, intoxicated lawyers, or pictures of healthcare professionals misusing drugs from the pharmacy. In reality, however, many highly respectable occupations feature elevated rates of addiction. 

Substance Use Disorder in Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare professionals work in a field that demands high levels of responsibility, accountability, and performance. Professionals typically hold a license or official accreditation to practice in their field. They may own their practice, which can be a stressor. Perhaps most important, healthcare professionals routinely have the lives, livelihoods, and futures of patients in their hands. Consequently, there are instances of healthcare professionals turning to drugs or alcohol to handle high expectations or work-related stress and to help their brains wind down and get some sleep at the end of a long day filled with tough, consequential decisions.1

At Lakeview Health, we know how difficult addiction issues can become for healthcare professionals. This is why we have developed an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program for professionals that directly addresses these issues.

Addressing Drug Use in Healthcare Professionals

One 2001 study found that, in the US, 10-15% of physicians will develop a chemical dependance at some point during their lifetime.2 This fact is particularly alarming because of the enormous impact healthcare workers have on their patients’ well-being. Recognizing the signs of drug abuse in this population is therefore essential. To determine if you or the healthcare worker in your life needs professional help with a substance abuse problem, you can ask the following questions:

  • Do you often think about the substance you are using? 
  • Do you have unrestricted access to drugs at work?
  • Have you developed a tolerance to substances you are using? 
  • Are you spending significant amounts of time acquiring, using, or recovering from the effects of substance use?
  • Have you found yourself in risky behavior (handling patients, driving, operating machinery, practicing unsafe sex) while using the substance or substances?
  • Have you failed to fulfill work or family responsibilities because of your use of substances?
  • Have you continued to use the substance despite having experienced adverse health outcomes?

This list is, of course, far from exhaustive. But if you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, it is worth seeking professional help. And Lakeview Health is an excellent place to start.

Treating Drug Abuse in Healthcare Professionals

The inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program for professionals at Lakeview Health is an addiction recovery program designed specifically for professionals—such as doctors, commercial airline pilots, lawyers, and executives of all industries—who need a comprehensive assessment and treatment for addiction. This specialized program at Lakeview Health provides the level of care necessary to detox and treat professionals with substance use disorders, co-occurring mental health disorders, and a history of trauma or post-traumatic stress.

Patients are assigned to staff with specialized training who help navigate the complex systems unique to them, which increases engagement. They participate in the professional treatment series, a sequence of group therapy sessions designed specifically for the modern professional. This series provides the opportunity to interact with others who can relate to the issues common to professionals regardless of their area of expertise. As with any addiction treatment program, a program geared for professionals and other high-functioning professionals with substance use disorder(s) should avoid shaming and further stigmatizing people because of their addiction. One of the major fears professionals often have about seeking treatment is the loss of their career. The treatment program should be a safe space where those in recovery can learn to be honest with themselves and others. Addiction is often an isolating disease, and treatment should not further isolate the addicted professional. Going through rehab with professional peers allows patients to share openly in a non-judgmental environment, accept personal responsibility without defensiveness, and develop the tools for personal growth and self-awareness needed for successful recovery, sobriety, and—ultimately—a safe return to work. The good news is that by following these recommendations, professionals with addiction can achieve better outcomes than the general population. The drive of the professional and their desire to return to work can help motivate them to achieve successful recovery. 

Getting the Help You Need

If you or someone you care about is a healthcare professional and you are worried about drug abuse, you must act now. Reach out to the inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program for professionals at Lakeview Health using our online form today or call us at [Direct] to learn more.