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Doctors Who Self-Medicate Want Relief from Physical or Emotional Pain: Study

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Doctors who self-medicate with prescription drugs often do so to relieve physical or emotional pain, or to relieve stress, according to a survey of doctors in recovery.

The survey included 55 doctors who were being monitored for substance abuse as part of their state’s physician health program, Science Daily reports. The University of Florida researchers report in the Journal of Addiction Medicine that 69 percent of the doctors had abused prescription drugs in addition to alcohol and illicit drugs.

Many of the doctors began abusing prescription drugs while using medications prescribed for chronic pain after surgery or trauma, the article notes. Some doctors used the drugs to gain relief from anxiety or depression, while others used them to relieve stress related to their professional or personal life.

Some doctors said they also used drugs recreationally, while others said they used prescription medications to treatment symptoms of drug withdrawal.

Prevention efforts that target prescription drug misuse by doctors should begin during medical training, and continuing education should be required throughout their careers, the researchers recommend. They wrote, “All physicians should learn the signs of substance abuse and the procedure for intervening with a colleague suspected of substance-related impairment.”

3 Responses to this article

  1. Joe Miller / October 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Same could be said for most people who self medicate I believe. At least that was my experience as a probation officer with clients on felony probation.

  2. Avatar of Frobisher
    Frobisher / October 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    “Doctors who self-medicate with prescription drugs often do so to relieve physical or emotional pain, or to relieve stress, according to a survey of doctors in recovery.”
    I think this conclusion could be applied to brick layers, bank tellers, stockbrokers, roofers, or just about anyone. The story isn’t that they have pain and self-medicate. It’s that a study has been completed that demonstrated what everyone knew already. Can MDs with abuse problems effectively treat patients with abuse problems? Frankly, I’m more worried about the MDs WITHOUT abuse problems who know very little about abuse and addiction. My own physician knew nothing about neurotransmitters at work and play in the nucleus acumbens, much less the Kaiser ACE study. Did any of those physicians suffer any sort of childhood trauma? I’ll bet some of them did.

  3. Skip Sviokla MD ABAM / October 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I wrote my book “From Harvard to Hell and Back” (Central Recovery Press July 2013)to address this very issue. Brown Medical School has seen fit to have me back for the last 6 years to address incoming interns, residents and fellows at RI Hospital on this topic. Young docs are especially at risk and most are eager to learn about the issue. This includes the 80-85% or so who will never suffer from the illness themselves. Thanks for addressing the issue

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