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Fifteen Percent of Surgeons Show Signs of Alcohol Problems

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A new study shows that alcohol problems are not uncommon among surgeons, with about 15 percent having alcohol abuse or dependency problems, a rate above the general population’s nine percent.

Researchers also say that surgeons who showed signs of alcoholism were 45 percent more likely to admit that they had a major medical error in the past three months, according to Reuters.

The study, published in the Archives of Surgery, was led by Michael Oreskovich at the University of Washington. His team sent out a survey to more than 25,000 surgeons, with 7,200 responses. It included questions about the work, lifestyle and mood. Several were used to screen for alcohol abuse or dependency.

It was not determined why alcohol problems may be more common among surgeons, a field considered particularly demanding. It did show that problems with alcohol were linked with physicians who also reported depression and burnout.

Oreskovich said, “The nature of the beast is that the percent of emergencies, the percent of after-hours work and actual scheduled work itself all require an energy and concentration that is really different than a lot of other specialities.”

Last November, another study found a majority of doctors who are treated for addiction return to work within a few years of treatment. Surgeons had similar success rates compared with other types of physicians.

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