Physician substance abuse
and addiction:

recognition, intervention, and recovery The OMA Physician Health Program (PHP) was founded in 1995, with an initial mandate to provide assistance to physicians who experience problems with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Prevalence
lished in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Brewster said, Risk factors
Commonly abused substances
hol problems fall into both categories.
Signs of Addiction in Physicians
that will clearly identify an addictedcolleague. • Increased sick time and other time away from work • Patient and staff complaints about physician’s changing • Increasing personal and professional isolation • Unpredictable work habits and patterns • Moodiness, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or gestures • Uncharacteristic deterioration of handwriting and charting • Unexpected presence in hospital when off-duty • Inappropriate prescription of large narcotic doses • Insistence on personal administration of parenteral narcotics to more irritable than expected. Previ-ously decisive, reliable and predic- breath at work, are worrisome signs.
of a “medical personality,” PHP staff tion, especially if there is a “threat” to close contact with the doctor until it is feel guilt and shame about what theyhave done and how they see them-selves as a result of their illness. are at play, the doctor confronted inan informal manner, no matter howwell-intentioned and thorough, maynot respond favourably.
when considering addicted doctors.
The first is that they must “want help”before intervention is successful. Thesecond is that they must “hit bottom”before they will be receptive to assis-tance. misconceptions. Confronting animpaired colleague, while difficult,must be done swiftly and compe-tently. It can be a life-saving action.
tion is called intervention. It hasbeen well described by VernonJohnson and others,6 and an outlineof the intervention process has beenpublished in the Ontario MedicalReview.7 Components of a Recovery Program
as to encourage full compliance withall prescribed recovery activities. Pro- • Outpatient aftercare: group and individual therapy • Mutual help group: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous International Doctors in AA (IDAA), Women for Sobriety • Pharmacotherapy (e.g., disulfiram, naltrexone) • Healthy balance between work, rest and leisure activities • Assessment, treatment of concurrent problems (e.g., psychiatric, Outcomes
• Rigorous monitoring, including random body fluid analyses substance use disorders in physiciansis much like that in the general popu-lation. But outcomes, especially Treatment: substance abuse and addiction
dence, never experiencing a relapse.
risk use of mood-altering substances.
of the addicted physician’s family.
fessionals can facilitate this transition. Conclusion
really are our brothers’ and sisters’ Rev 1999;66(3):54-56. This article is References
sicians. JAMA 1986; 255(14):1913-20.
Suggested reading
fessionals. In: Principles of Addiction Medicine. American Society of Addic- vulnerabilities of physicians. NEJM signs and symptoms of distress. Ont Med Rev 1999;66(5):46-47. This arti- Dr. Kaufmann, CCFP, FCFP, a former family
cians. Canadian Journal of Diagnosis practitioner, is medical director of the OMA
Physician Health Program. Dr. Kaufmann is
6. Johnson VE. I’ll Quit Tomorrow.
certified in addiction medicine by the
American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Source: http://www.anonieme-dokters.nl/physician_substance_abuse.pdf


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