Under the Care of an Addict: Is Your Doctor Addicted?

Under the Care of an Addict: Is Your Doctor Addicted?

By Lakeview Health
Lakeview Health
Published: October 30, 2012

Drug-Addicted Medical Professionals

While delivering awful news, doctors are expected to remain strong, comfort others and never show signs of weakness. Medical professionals have to tell families that their loved ones have terminal illnesses, devastating diseases and are the first to report to families that their loved one is dead. Feeling helpless in a profession where people look to you for answers can become taxing over time. So much so that medical professionals sometimes abuse drugs to counteract uncomfortable feelings, resulting in the need for drug and alcohol rehab.


The number of medical professionals struggling with addiction is alarming. And so are their stories. “I’ve lost my house, I’ve lost my bank account, my pension plan, I lost my business, I lost my license, I lost my wife,” said an addicted doctor quoted in an Olympia, Washington, newspaper in 2009. At that time it was estimated that 10 to 15 percent of doctors battle addiction during their careers. A published study conducted by the University of Washington said that 13 to 15 percent of physicians receiving drug addiction treatment are anesthesiologists. Two potential reasons for this: ample opportunity and exposure to high potent opioids. A study done by the American College of Surgeons showed that addicted doctors shared two characteristics: emotional exhaustion and loss of identity associated with burnout. Most doctors work in high-pressure positions and with all the attention focused on patients, many lose their sense of self in their profession.


Nurses, like doctors, struggle with addiction. They have to be strong and supportive during extremely trying times. Nurses are around patients and their families more often than doctors. This may result in amplified stress, frustration and lack of self-care that accompanies addiction. A study in the journal Nursing Research included some of the characteristics that contribute to addiction among nurses:

  • Working a night shift or rotating shifts
  • Critical care work
  • Excessive overtime
  • Musculoskeletal injuries and pain
  • Knowledge of medications

The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) reported that the incidence rate of chemical impairment among nurses ranges between 7 and 24 percent, with emergency nurses three times more likely to use drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. Many nurses may enter a drug monitoring program after drug addiction treatment.

Let’s Get Help!

Addiction looks for ways to keep your habit going. Ruining you career, relationships and finances is par for the course. You end up going against your morals, values and Hippocratic oath. Perhaps you are diverting medications from patients or falsifying prescriptions to support your habits. You need detox and rehab if you are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Getting help before you end up losing your ability to practice medicine or dispense medications is best.