The fact that doctors are so knowledgeable when it comes to health problems would suggest that these professionals are in a much better position to avoid addiction. The reality is that many of them do end up falling into this trap, and the fact that they are doctors can actually put them in more danger than the average person. There are believed to be about 10,000 addicted doctors in the UK, but this is a problem that is mostly hidden. This is dangerous because it not only means that these professionals can be ruining their own lives, but it is also likely to affect their ability to care for patients.
Why Do Doctors Become Addicted to Alcohol or Drugs?
A doctor is one of the most respected professions in the world, so once these individuals get beyond the many years of training, it can be financially rewarding as well – although usually not as much as these people deserve. Doctors enjoy above average job security, and they have a great deal of autonomy in their career. They are also very aware of the dangers of addiction and the mechanism by which it happens, so why is it that they fall into this trap? Some of the possible reasons include:
- working as a doctor can be incredibly stressful – the training is gruelling and once qualified the doctor will have to be regularly dealing with demanding and emotional challenges
- student doctors usually have to work long hours, and some people can be tempted to turn to stimulant drugs for help in staying awake – this can then open the door to addiction
- doctors may have more temptation as they can prescribe drugs and may even have access to controlled drugs such as morphine
- doctors who work hard and have to deal with traumatic events can have a sense of entitlement when it comes to unwinding with alcohol – there can also be a strong drinking culture among medical professionals (it is normal to meet for drinks after work)
- these individuals can be genetically predisposed to addiction just like anyone else can
- doctors can start taking prescription drugs for a legitimate reason but end up becoming dependent on the substance – this is more likely to happen when they try to treat their own health problems.
The Danger for Doctors Who Become Addicted to Alcohol or Drugs
Doctors who become addicted to alcohol or drugs can be in more danger than the average person. This is because they may be less willing to seek help. It is common for people in this situation to be high functioning; this means that, while the addiction is having a negative impact on their life, they are better at hiding it. Some of the other reasons doctors may be more in danger from alcohol and drugs include:
- family and friends may make allowances for addictive behaviour by justifying it as ‘letting off some steam’
- doctors can be embarrassed about their problem, and they may also be unwilling to admit it because it could damage their career
- there can be a sense of bravado among doctors, which makes them reluctant to admit to having addiction problems
- doctors can find it easier to hide addictive behaviour – for example, it is common for doctors who work the nightshift to have a few drinks in the morning without it being viewed as odd
- doctors can find it easier to ensure a regular supply of drugs
- doctors can be more in danger from alcohol or drugs because it can mean they are less able to do their job properly, and this will affect patient care – it could even lead to the loss of life.
Help for Doctors Who Become Addicted to Alcohol or Drugs
There is growing awareness of the problem of doctors who fall into addiction, which means more solutions tailored specifically to this group. In many cases, the best option is to enter a rehab programme, which can be done discretely. Those doctors who feel particularly worried about protecting their anonymity while receiving treatment can go abroad for help. There is lots of information online to help doctors choose the right resources.