Published on October 5, 2013 at 7:15 AM
The rate of drug misuse by doctors is similar to that in the general population. However, because they have access, physicians seem more likely to use prescription drugs. Substance use is the most common cause of impairment among physicians. Their professional colleagues are required to refer or report them when substance abuse is suspected.
Physician health programs provide referrals for long-term treatment, monitoring, and drug screening, with a high success rate in achieving long-term freedom from substance abuse. Asking physicians in recovery about their experience provides a unique opportunity to understand the reasons for substance abuse by health care professionals.
The findings highlight the importance of self-medication as a reason for prescription drug abuse by doctors, although recreational use is important as well. The study "provides additional evidence that health care professionals who misuse prescription drugs may represent a special population of substance users, who may use substances for various reasons and may require different methods of prevention and intervention to be most effective," Dr Merlo and coauthors write.
The researchers suggest that prevention efforts targeting prescription drug misuse by physicians should start during medical training, with required continuing education throughout their careers. Education should include strong messages to doctors that they must seek qualified medical care for pain or other medical problems, as well as for psychiatric or emotional concerns-rather than trying to treat themselves. Dr Merlo and colleagues add, "All physicians should learn the signs of substance abuse and the procedure for intervening with a colleague suspected of substance-related impairment."
Source: Wolters Kluwer Health