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Substance Abuse Can Reach Into Any Profession

physicianAddiction doesn’t discriminate. People of any age, religion, ethnicity and profession are not immune to the potential of becoming an addict or alcoholic. Despite most people understanding this fact, many still seem surprised when they hear of those in certain positions needing help for substance abuse issues.

For example, doctors are some of the least expected people to develop a problem with alcohol or other drugs, yet they often have extremely stressful jobs caring for people. As a result, many neglect themselves and seek some form of relief from the stress and discomfort they feel. The same can be true for other types of medical professionals and first responders.

California may be the first state to mandate that physicians are required to take drug tests, according to a recent report. The drug tests would be issued randomly, if the doctor is displaying suspicious behavior or after an unexpected death under the doctor’s care. This new policy would allow hospitals, patients and other doctors to operate comfortably knowing that drug use is not being overlooked within the field.

For many professionals, the threat of being caught can be deterrent enough. A hospital in Massachusetts started randomly drug testing their anesthesiology residents and found that prior to enacting the drug testing policy the hospital saw the number of their doctor residents who were found to have abused drugs drop from six to zero.

In order for the new drug testing policy to be most effective, other doctors and hospital staff would have to be willing to come forward if they notice suspicious behavior in a physician. While it may seem to some that this would be an easy thing to do, many people have a hard time coming forward if they suspect drug use. A study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that out of 2,000 physicians polled, 17% of them knew of a colleague that may be under the influence of drugs, but only 67% of those doctors actually came forward and reported the offending physician.

Drug testing of physicians and other healthcare professionals shouldn’t be viewed as any form of punishment. The action is for the benefit of not only the patients who are under their care, but of course for their own well-being also.