Rising Number of Professionals Turn to Alcohol Abuse

Posted on November 25th, 2011

Alcoholics do not fit one stereotype, they are a wide array of people. An international behavioral health conference in Ireland uncovered alarming statistics that many alcoholics around us are actually professionals including doctors, bankers, and lawyers that we rely on to be in control of our health and finances.

According to Rory O’Connor, a health programs coordinator in the UK, 96 percent of alcoholics have a good life. Their alcoholism would not be apparent to those around them, yet something still needs to be done to help curb the rise in professionals with an alcoholic problem.

The health conference, held at an addiction center at Toranfield House, in County Wicklow, Ireland, was a gathering place for health experts to meet and address the growing problem of professionals suffering from alcoholism. O’Connor stated in Britain’s Observer that the UK government is not doing as much as possible to aid these professionals in their silent addiction.

The alarming news stemmed from the growth of “rehab tourism”-when professionals travel abroad to get help for their substance abuse problems so that no one “back home” will know that they are suffering from the problem. Alastair Mordey, the program director of a substance abuse clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand, says that a large majority of his patients are from London. This treatment center sees twice as many doctors as it does for other professions.

He says that doctors seek help abroad because they are embarrassed and feel shame and fear that their addiction may make them appear weak or incompetent. They could not feel comfortable being treated for an abuse problem by their colleague, or having their patients see any flaws in their exterior. They have been dubbed “mental health tourists” who flee their own country to seek help with their problems.

The stress of working in high-power positions where accountability is demanded, balancing family time and work time, and working long and demanding hours in high-profile positions are the main contributors to an alcoholism problem in professionals. When the stakes run high, statistics run high. The British Medical Association (BMA) illustrated the impact of alcoholism on a doctor’s life when they reported that physicians were three times more likely than the average citizen to develop cirrhosis of the liver. They also noted that approximately one in 15 healthcare professionals will eventually suffer from an addiction.

Physicians are not the only professionals to suffer from alcohol abuse. Many financiers who have great pressure to manage everyone’s money abuse alcohol, and studies indicate that 15-24 percent of lawyers, who also help guide life and death decisions, are part of the group of professionals who abuse alcohol.

Health experts at the conference called out to the UK government to help heal these professionals on their own soil. Some believe that alcoholism could be managed and overcome in the same way that the UK brought down smoking. Experts agree that it is a difficult task to convince professionals to seek help even closer to home, but it is a task that needs to be attempted and one in which the country should assert every effort to attain.

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