Drug abuse in the workplace can be a big concern in any occupation, but what about when the addict is a doctor, or more specifically, an anesthesiologist? Some may think that this group of employees should understand the risks and dangers of controlled substances better than anybody. After all, they deal with these drugs everyday and have studied them in depth.
This may be the exact reason some doctors are able to successfully support a drug habit without getting caught. They have easy access to the drugs, being around the drugs every day may lead to cravings for the drug, they see the positive results patients experience with the drugs, and they know the symptoms of drug abuse and how to hide them without getting caught.
Anesthesiologists and drug abuse
A recent study examined the risk of anesthesiologists being exposed to low levels of drugs through patients exhaling them or through the skin. While more studies are being done on this subject, it could be said that just the constant presence of the substances near a person could easily drive them to try it. Many anesthesiologists who are addicts started using drugs when they were under the stress of their residency training period and were not experienced enough with their profession to say “no” to the temptation to try a drug. It’s easy to become addicted to such powerful drugs, and it often doesn’t work to “just try it once”.
Even though the statistics are low- as few as 2% of anesthesiologist residents abuse substances- the drugs that they do use are usually some of the most powerful intravenous drugs around. This often leads to death because of the strong substances and addictive nature of them. A few additional problems result from anesthesiologists using drugs: being so educated about controlled substances, anesthesiologists may be more able to cheat on drug tests to keep from getting caught. The chances of an anesthesiologist making it through treatment and going back to their work are not very good; 1 out of 9 will end up dying from relapse and subsequent addiction. And the public safety issue is very concerning – how do we ensure that those responsible for our lives are sober when treating us?
Solutions for hospitals
Some hospitals have measures in place to catch drug abuse among staff, including urine drug tests and strict monitoring of controlled substances being taken out of stock. While these may be useful tools to help keep people honest, some would argue that the thing hospitals need to focus on is prevention of the problem. Education and training should include drug addiction awareness, and stress reduction practices should be taught. Perhaps if we focus on the well-being of individuals before they feel the need to turn to substances we can prevent the abuse in the first place.