The Prevalence of Substance Abuse in the Medical Industry

The United States is struggling in the midst of a dire, encapsulating addiction epidemic that threatens to overcome much of our society and our very way of life. According to recent publications from both the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than twenty-four million Americans suffer from some form of drug addiction or alcohol dependence.

That number alone represents at least twelve percent of Americans from the ages of fourteen to ninety. This means that twelve out of one-hundred American teens and adults are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Obviously, the prevalence of drug and alcohol addiction is more prominent in the U.S. now than it perhaps ever was. And one of the mistakes that we make in viewing this problem is in thinking that addiction only affects certain demographics and areas of the population when in actual fact addiction is now a beast that can touch down in the lives of anyone at any position or stature in their life.

While drug and alcohol addiction may have been historically something that only affected the impoverished, the inner city residents, and the minority demographics, substance abuse is now just as likely to happen in suburbia, amongst middle and upper-class residents, and even amongst Americans who possess college educations and impressive degrees and careers. Case in point, drug and alcohol addiction is now becoming all too prevalent amongst experts in the medical industry of all places.

Addiction Experts Discuss the Prominence of Addiction in the Medical Sphere

The common denominator of addiction in the medical sphere is that doctors and nurses and other medical practitioners are more exposed to substances, and so it makes sense that they would be more likely to contract a habit. According to renowned addiction expert and physician, Dr. Edward Journey, an addictionologist and clinical instructor at the University of Michigan:

  • “Addiction-related to prescription medications may emerge differently. Specifically, physicians are five times more likely to abuse opioid pain medications and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs than the general population. Recurrently using more than the prescribed amount, even if the medication is legitimately prescribed, warrants further investigation by a clinician. For health care workers, the relative ease of access to certain controlled substances is another contributing factor for addiction. It is worth noting that the body becomes dependent or habituated on drugs after two to three weeks.”

Dr. Journey goes on to discuss how medical experts can determine if their colleagues are struggling with addiction or not by saying that:

  • “Common warning signs include recurring absences or tardiness, problems with functionality, difficulty in executing clinical decisions, making documentation errors and changes in productivity levels. Other signs may include disappearing for hours during the workday, not returning pages, appearing impaired or disheveled, slurring speech, or smelling of alcohol.”

What is particularly noteworthy in the issue of medical experts succumbing to drug and alcohol addiction is that, as a demographic, these experts are actually more likely to suffer from an addiction habit than the general populace is. According to a direct citation from research done by Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index:

  • “Illicit drug use among U.S. employees continues to rise, resulting in the highest drug test positivity rates in the last twelve years. While the statistics on whether healthcare workers are more or less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol are unclear, the American Nurses Association estimates that one in ten nurses experience drug or alcohol addiction. These figures and medical professional’s ready access to narcotics, demands healthcare employers’ attention.”

All of the information points in essentially the same direction. Drug and alcohol addiction is simply more likely to occur in the medical industry than it is in the general populace. Some estimates indicate that, while about twelve percent of the overall American adult populace struggles with addiction, something closer to fifteen percent of the population of medical experts struggles with such habits.

Reducing Addiction in the Medical Industry

The biggest tipping point that caused such a prominence of addiction to occur in the medical industry was the introduction of highly addictive and habit-forming pharmaceutical drugs as the mainstay of how we addressed much of our medical problems in society today. Now, medical experts are exposed to highly addictive and mind-altering pharmaceutical drugs, drugs that these professionals must dole out on a near-daily basis.

With that in mind, it becomes a little more understandable how this demographic has become so smitten with prescription drug abuse. To curb this rising tide of addiction amongst medical experts, we need to curb the use and reliance on pharmaceutical drugs that currently envelops the nation. We need to get doctors introduced to holistic and natural forms of pain relief and mental relief, and we need to reduce our use and reliance on highly addictive pain relievers and mental health drugs.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2170498

Why the Healthcare Industry Should Pay Particular Attention to Drug and Alcohol Issues in the Workplace

https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/industry-dx/signs-and-symptoms-of-addiction-medical-professionals

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