Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing substance abuse problem in the United States, with more and more people dying from overdose each passing year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. What few people realize, however, is that physicians — the guardians of prescription drugs — often become the victims of abuse themselves.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, physicians who abuse prescription drugs do so for the same reasons the rest of us do: stress relief, physical pain, and emotional problems. The results of this study, reported in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, also indicated that doctors who abused prescription drugs were also highly likely to abuse alcohol as well as illicit drugs. Fifty five physicians in the study were under watch by state health programs designed to monitor the personal habits of those with reported issues.
Also unsurprisingly, many developed dependency during self-medicated treatment for an injury or following surgery. Those who reported using prescription drugs recreationally or for treatment of anxiety and depression often progressed into physical dependence, with managing the symptoms of withdrawal a top priority.
Prescription Drug Rehabilitation
Unlike other users, however, physicians who become addicted to drugs have the benefit of state-run health programs that provide long-term treatment, including enrollment in a prescription drug rehab center, as well as ongoing monitoring and screening. The result? Physicians who enroll in prescription drug rehabilitation centers and who participate in follow-up care enjoy high success rates in terms of long-term abstinence.
Doctors Aren’t Perfect
Still, for many of us, the idea that a physician we know and trust could be addicted to drugs is frightening. Nevertheless, remember that doctors aren’t perfect. Take, for example, Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s physician. Murray prescribed a powerful regimen of sedatives, including the surgical drug propofol, which eventually killed Jackson. Although Murray claims to have monitored Jackson carefully on the night of his death, a jury felt otherwise and sentenced Murray to multiple years in prison. Three states also revoked Murray’s medical license; he is suing in at least one for reinstatement.
Photo: alim fadhley
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