Surgeons and the High Rate of Alcoholism
Why Do Doctors Get Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol?
The problem of alcoholism in surgeons is just one specific example of the overarching issue of addiction and substance abuse in all kinds of doctors. The problem begins in medical school, where the pressure to succeed and the long hours of study cause stress in students. As these students move into residencies and internships, they are expected to work long shifts with little to no sleep.
Doctors have to make important decisions that impact the well-being of patients and may make the wrong choices sometimes. The pressure, stress and long hours can lead to mental health issues, like depression, as well as overall burnout. To reach for a drink or a drug for relief is not unusual.
For surgeons, the pressure may be even greater than for other types of doctors. They truly make life-and-death decisions every time they pick up the scalpel, and living with bad decisions and mistakes can be overwhelming. This may help to explain the high rates of alcohol abuse and dependence among surgeons.
How Surgeons Can Get Help
Physician alcohol rehab is available in most states for surgeons suffering from alcohol abuse. It’s not easy to admit to having a problem, especially as a surgeon. Imagine you have to tell someone that you need help for alcohol abuse and then everyone begins to question any mistake you made during surgery. The fear that you could face reprimands or even the loss of your license to practice medicine may stop you from self-reporting.
The idea of a physician help program for addictions is that these state-run physician health programs, or PHPs, are safe places for surgeons and other kinds of doctors to ask for help. The PHPs are designed specifically to meet the needs of doctors with unique treatment programs, maintenance, follow-ups and aftercare. Doctors who admit themselves to a PHP are given the chance to get better and to earn the right to work in medicine again.
The idea that surgeons operating on patients could be intoxicated or may be suffering from the tremors and other side effects of alcoholism is scary. No one wants to think about what the consequences could be. Instead of being angry with these doctors, we need to better understand what leads them to abuse alcohol and to encourage them to get the help they need.