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Addiction Rehab Treatment Resources for Healthcare Professionals

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Addiction Treatment for Medical Professionals Near Me

Despite the noble and rewarding nature of the medical profession, it’s certainly one of the most stressful career paths one can choose. With the responsibility for other people’s lives and the significant levels of stress that come with it, it’s no wonder that doctors, nurses, technicians, and other medical professionals struggle with addiction to alcohol, drug, and diverted prescription medication.1 Available studies on the subject of substance abuse in healthcare professionals estimate that 10% to 15% of them suffer from alcohol or drug abuse.2

Even though the prevalence of addiction in doctors and other medical professionals isn’t significantly higher than the general population average, the presence of addicted professionals in healthcare facilities can have quite severe consequences. The impact of their addiction goes far beyond themselves and their loved ones – they present a danger to a large number of innocent patients as well.1 

Even though healthcare professionals know the repercussions of substance abuse very well, they are not immune to it. And considering the rising stress levels in the medical facility environment and the healthcare system, substance abuse issues among healthcare professionals are expected to grow.1

Substance Abuse in Health Care and Doctors 

Medical professionals are a particular type of substance abusers because they have access to a wide range of drugs. A number of healthcare workers believe that they are immune to becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol, which is a strong decision-making factor regarding their substance misuse. Those who don’t use drugs for ‘instrumental’ purposes (to combat fatigue and stay awake during night shifts, for example) are less likely to use any type of addictive substance.1

Even more than 30 years ago, about 10% of doctors used drugs regularly and 3% reported histories of drug dependence. Recreational drug use among medical workers usually involved marijuana and cocaine, while drugs used for self-treatment were mostly tranquilizers and opioids.3

Recent data says that the most used drugs are alcohol and prescription medications, mainly opioids and benzodiazepines. Physicians show a high rate of self-treatment with illicit use of legal prescription medications (like oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, or other opioid painkillers).4 Other commonly used drugs among healthcare professionals are marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.5

Medical Professionals Substance Abuse Statistics

Around 10% to 15% of all medical professionals misuse drugs or alcohol, which is a slightly higher proportion than the general population.6 Specialists in the fields of anesthesia, emergency medicine, and psychiatry show higher rates of drug abuse among doctors, due to the high-risk environment and easy access. Most physicians use drugs to enhance their performance at work and as self-treatment for mental health issues like anxiety or depression.7

As with the general population, the prevalence of substance abuse in healthcare professionals, after peaking in young adulthood, declines with age. In general, middle adulthood is the most common age for substance abuse, while medical workers younger than 35 have a higher rate of combining alcohol with other drugs. Cigarette smoking is a good predictor of high-risk alcohol use and a significant risk factor for opioid dependence.1

Alcohol Abuse Among Doctors

Medical professionals’ drinking habits are generally not associated with their specialty area, but are, however, related to gender – doctors struggling with alcoholism are more frequently male. Additionally, older doctors are more likely to be heavy drinkers than younger ones as opposed to the general US population.3

A family history of alcoholism is the most noteworthy risk factor for alcohol abuse. Additionally, a pattern of alcohol use is also a notable risk factor for both moderate and significant drug use.1,8

Signs of Substance Abuse in Healthcare Professionals

When it comes to symptoms of substance abuse, medical professionals show the same signs as everybody else. The main difference is – they might be able to hide their alcohol or drug abuse issues for longer before it becomes severe.1

Advanced addiction often leads to withdrawing from social relationships, and limiting contact with others, especially colleagues, since they know how to recognize substance abuse and addiction. Out of fear of being discovered, they might, for a long time, deny any problems to both themselves and others. That’s why alcohol and drug abuse in healthcare professionals leads to self-isolation, which in turn, might harm their mental health and exacerbate the addiction.1

There’s a wide range of physical and behavioral indicators for SUDs. They might include any of the following:2

  • Changes in behavior and personality.
  • Glassy eyes or small pupils.
  • Accidents.
  • Dishonesty and deceit.
  • Emotional or mental crises.
  • Isolation from others.
  • Drowsiness, hypersensitivity, or impairment during working hours.

Work setting-related symptoms may include:2

  • Disorganized schedule.
  • Preferring night shifts, due to less supervision and easier access to medication.
  • Unpredictable behavior.
  • Frequent bathroom breaks or unexplained absences.
  • Rudeness to patients.
  • Punctuality issues and missing deadlines.
  • Illogical or sloppy documentation and medication records.
  • Questionable medical judgment.
  • Incorrect medication or narcotics count.

Why Do Medical Professionals Have a Higher Risk of Drug and Alcohol Misuse?

Being a healthcare professional is one of the most stressful and demanding jobs due to long hours, sleep deprivation, overnight shifts, emotional trauma and pain, challenging decision making, and upsetting outcomes. Work-related stress can lead to self-treatment with illicit use of prescription drugs, alcohol, and even illegal drugs, or it can exacerbate an existing problem. When you combine depression and anxiety with easy access to all sorts of drugs, it’s no wonder that substance abuse is a common issue among medical professionals.5

Extensive pharmaceutical knowledge and easy access to potent psychoactive drugs make anesthesiologists the subgroup with the highest incidence of SUDs. Professional pride makes them feel immune to addiction while they try to manage stressful career demands.9

Nurses struggling with alcoholism reported a higher prevalence of family history of alcohol use than other groups of medical workers while family history of drug use is associated with higher rates of drug use among physicians.10

How Does Substance Abuse Affect Medical Professionals’ Workplace?

Many doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers might be highly functional individuals struggling with addiction, making drug or alcohol dependence hard to identify. They are often able to maintain their career and normal home life for a long time before others start noticing that something might be wrong.1

Since patients entrust their welfare, safety, and their lives to medical professionals, they have an ethical responsibility to perform their duties safely. Early discovery of the problem can minimize the risk to patients, and the chances they suffer harm as a result of healthcare professionals’ substance abuse issues.1

Substance use, abuse, or addiction impair medical professionals‘ performance, damage their ability to practice medicine by standards of good medical practice, and can lead to serious social and professional consequences.11

Levels of Care Offered in Rehab for Doctors

Established evidence-based protocols, treatment models, and approaches are used in drug and alcohol rehab for medical professionals, just like with other SUD patients. They are, of course, tailored to the personal needs and circumstances of each patient. Addiction therapy for medical professionals consists of several phases: SUD diagnosis, treatment, return to work, and follow-up. The levels of care may include:12

  • The initial intake and assessment. Doctors evaluate the patient and specify a treatment plan. This involves a psychological assessment to determine the potential presence of co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • Detoxification involves safe discontinuation of substance use under the supervision of medical professionals
  • Inpatient or residential treatment. Living in a residential treatment facility removes the patient from the environment with access to drugs and alcohol, as well as from personal and work responsibilities. Patients live in a structured inpatient setting that allows them to focus on recovery.2
  • The outpatient program consists of meetings with a doctor at the rehab facility during the day, but the patient lives at home. The flexibility of outpatient treatment allows medical professionals to continue with their usual life outside of rehab and go to work but it’s not as intensive as residential programs. However, outpatient programs provide structured therapy and education to address the causes of addiction.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) generally consists of 2-4 hour visits to the rehab facility, usually 3-4 days each week. Individual counseling is required during treatment. This offers more flexibility and less disruption to everyday life than inpatient treatment.
  • Therapy focuses on the underlying causes of one’s addiction through individual counseling, group therapy, and if necessary, supervised medical treatment. Patients learn to recognize the triggers that lead them to substance use.
  • Aftercare and sober living. Since addiction is a chronic illness and relapse is quite common, it requires continuous follow-up. Creating a support network and using it for help is essential for lasting sobriety. Participation in support groups, like NA or AA for doctors, encourages accountability for one’s actions and helps build self-esteem.

Does a Doctors’ Treatment Center Provide Inpatient Mental Health Treatment?

Most rehab facilities offer treatment for dual diagnosis. Since SUDs and mental health issues often co-occur, treating addiction often involves dual diagnosis treatment. Many healthcare and rehabilitation centers for doctors specialize in dual diagnosis treatment to simultaneously address substance abuse and mental health issues. The most common mental health disorders that lead to substance abuse or co-occur with them are:12

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Bipolar disorder.

What to Expect in a Medical Professionals’ Rehab?

The SUD rehabilitation process is carried out through several different phases. It begins with patient intake and professional evaluation or assessment. Medical staff determines the severity of the addiction and makes a treatment plan accordingly, taking into consideration everyone’s personal needs and circumstances.13

Detox is the first phase of the treatment. The patient is monitored while the drug gets eliminated from their system, and given medication to ease withdrawal symptoms, if necessary. After physical dependence is no longer a problem, patients can move on to counseling and psychotherapy sessions, group or family therapy, or any additional or particular therapy approaches for medical professionals. Before leaving the facility, an aftercare plan is created to help prevent relapse. Patients get guidance and advice on how to carry on with sober living outside of the rehab facility.12

Medical professionals respond more favorably to addiction programs than the general population. They understand the consequences of continued substance abuse and addiction, including the possibility of losing their medical license. They are usually monitored for alcohol and drug use after they return to work.8

How Long Does Addiction Treatment for Medical Professionals Last?

When planning a treatment program, varied factors are taken into consideration on a case-to-case basis. Each patient has unique needs and their own pace of adapting to the rehab environment, opening up to counselors and other patients, and sharing the issues that lead them to addiction in the first place. Patients go through recovery at various speeds, depending on several factors, including:12 

  • The severity of the addiction.
  • Duration.
  • Patient’s age.

Most rehab facilities offer various options for continuing treatment after leaving the facility. It’s important to point out that early intervention and appropriate treatment produce the most promising results and often help medical professionals return to healthy lifestyles and their careers.6 

How to Select a Drug Rehab for Doctors or Nurses?

When selecting a drug or alcohol rehab for professionals, several factors should be taken into consideration to make sure that patients receive the best possible treatment for their needs.

Many addiction recovery programs are available to medical professionals and designed to help them with reentry into clinical practice. Medical professionals that complete their treatment successfully usually demonstrate higher recovery rates than other groups, especially with intensive follow-up care.7

 Other factors medical professionals should consider include:13

  • Staff certifications.
  • Counseling services and treatment techniques.
  • Mental health resources.
  • Support group programs.
  • Accreditations by federal and state agencies.
  • Facility’s track record, other people’s experiences.

Financing Options for Drug Rehab for Medical Professionals

Major providers’ insurance plans cover mental health and addiction treatment as essential health benefits.14 Most rehab centers accept health insurance, which can significantly lower the costs of treatment for patients. However, not all plans cover the full cost of a stay at a rehab facility, but most rehab centers offer payment plans or sliding fee scales.15

When deciding on a rehab facility, some patients wonder if they should travel out of state for treatment or stay close to home. This decision comes down to personal preference. Staying close to home is less expensive and being close to family and friends makes visitation easier, in case the specific facility allows it.12

Traveling out of state has the benefit of removing the patient from the distractions and potentially negative influences that lead to their substance abuse so they can focus on recovery. This might also be a better option for patients who are well-known in their community (like physicians and doctors), so they can have privacy and not compromise the confidentiality of their medical condition. It’s possible, however, that non-local facilities are not in-network with your health insurance provider.12

Treatment for Alcohol and Drug Addiction Among Medical Professionals 

Your insurance provider might not cover the full cost of addiction treatment. The price will depend on the treatment program, amenities, location. Sometimes insurance covers a rehab program only partially or only outpatient treatment. To find out what types of treatment are covered, reach out to your insurance provider. You can also get a lot of useful information by calling a free addiction hotline.15

If the kind of treatment you need is not covered, you can call the facility you’re interested in and their admission navigators can explain the options for paying for treatment. You can reach out to American Addiction Centers (AAC) by telephone, online chat, or fill out the verification of benefits form on the website. You can also get information about AAC’s facility locations to find a treatment center near you.

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The editorial staff of Projectknow.com is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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