Treatment Services for Addicted Medical Professionals

Generally speaking, doctors should not prescribe medications to themselves, except in rare emergency situations, according to the ethical guidelines of the American Medical Association, according to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine. Individuals who prescribe medications to themselves, whether through legal channels because they are licensed to write prescriptions or through illicit channels because they may work around and have access to narcotics, may be placing themselves at risk for further problems for a variety of reasons.

For instance:
  • When a doctor prescribes drugs to a patient, he or she will collect valuable and necessary information about medical history, including the medical history of the patient’s family members. This can help them when forming a proper diagnosis.
  • Doctors perform a thorough physical or psychiatric examination prior to writing prescription for certain drugs, because the drugs may mask symptoms that need to be addressed.
  • Patients who receive a prescription medication are provided with the warnings and hazards associated with the medication from the doctor as well as the pharmacy staff when the prescription is filled through legal channels.
  • The instructions for use of the medication are often specific to the individual, including dosages, frequency of use and symptoms to watch for.

When a medical professional eliminates this process, they may use the drugs they intend to help their symptoms in a manner that can lead to tolerance or addiction, and they may be robbing themselves of the treatment they need to combat physical or mental illnesses. Working in the medical profession is a taxing career, physically and mentally. Patients sometimes die, which can drastically affect their caregivers’ well-being. The hours are long and arduous. All these factors can create an environment that can lead to addiction.

drug treatment for medical professionalsInpatient and Outpatient Treatment Services for Addicted Medical Professionals

Some medical professionals may respond well to outpatient treatment, which means they will continue to work and live with their families during the counseling and treatment process. However, there are some differences between outpatient services and inpatient services that can apply directly to a physical or other health care provider.

When undergoing outpatient care, a doctor who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is going to face the same temptations to abuse drugs due to the chronic, relapsing nature of addiction. With so many substances available at the tip of one’s fingers, it may prove a greater burden when the professional is trying to avoid using drugs. By choosing a residential, inpatient treatment program, the recovering addict is separated completely from their normal routine and their access to drugs is significantly limited.

The process of detoxification is another reason why inpatient treatment may be a better option for medical professionals. Depending upon the types of drugs to which one has become addicted, the withdrawal period during initial detoxification may affect one’s ability to work. For instance, withdrawal from high levels of alcohol can result in trembling and shaking, which may cause a medical professional to become understandably self-conscious. This might lead to the abuse of alcohol, not for the “high” or intoxication, but simply to reduce or eliminate the obvious signs of withdrawal. In a medically assisted detox program, the recovering addict can work through these issues privately and with assistance from knowledgeable staff and other medical professionals.

man with drinkAnother benefit of choosing a treatment center away from home is the privacy aspect. There is a stigma attached to those who abuse drugs, particularly when addiction has developed to the point that the individual is making poor choices in many areas of their life. If the medical professional who needs treatment is concerned about how their colleagues or patients will view their need for recovery, residential treatment can provide the privacy they need to fully concentrate on their health and progress.

Many individuals who suffer from drug addiction also suffer from another mental illness, according to research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In order for treatment to be fully effective, the individual needs to receive treatment for both conditions simultaneously. When considering this relationship and the unique variables that each person brings to the treatment process, it is important to receive comprehensive care as quickly as possible in order for the health professional to return to work in a recovered state. Outpatient treatment takes place only a few hours each day. These are difficult hours to set aside when one is working in the health care industry under the best of circumstances, certainly. The treatment process can take many more weeks on an outpatient basis than at a residential facility, where one’s full attention is focused on recovery.

Individual, Group and Family Therapy Are Important for Recovery
individual counselingFirst and foremost, addiction is a disease of the brain that changes how people think about the world around them. It changes behaviors because behaviors are determined by belief structures and thoughts. If an individual believes they cannot function in their busy, exhausting day without the help of cocaine, for instance, they will continue to do what they must to obtain and abuse it. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps individuals unlearn the beliefs and behaviors they have memorized over time while they learn new ways to address the same, legitimate issues. The same person who didn’t believe that they could stay awake long enough to effectively work their shift might learn that participating in stress-reducing activities and increasing exercise can build stamina – that they can, in fact, make it through a shift without abusing cocaine.Other types of therapy are also available in residential, inpatient treatment programs. Group therapy is generally mediated by a treatment professional, for example. In this setting, individuals who face the same types of issues meet in a group setting and discuss their addiction or other issues that pertain to their drug abuse. Members of the group can encourage each other by sharing similar stories. This feeling of camaraderie and that one is not “alone” in the battle against drug abuse can provide each member with a feeling of commitment to their own recovery. When a member of the group falters, the others can lift them up. When one member of the group is successful, others in the group may receive a sense of power that they, too, can be successful.Family therapy is another form of group therapy with two distinct tracks of thought. In one instance, the recovering addict may be the focus of the family session. This can help the other members of the family understand what is happening to their loved one while learning the best ways to help them succeed. Drug addiction not only affects the drug abuser, however. Families are often embroiled in the addiction, even if they are not abusing drugs. Children can suffer confusion and other issues because of a parent’s addiction. Spouses can feel overwhelmed as they work to help their husband or wife while maintaining strength for their children. Family therapy can also address the needs of other members of the household so everyone makes improvements toward a life free from drug addiction.

Alternative and Complementary Therapy Can Create a Foundation for Future Health

Once the initial treatment period has ended and the recovering medical professional returns home, he or she will go back to work. The same stress and overwhelming schedule will be waiting for them, leading one to believe that the recovery process may be in jeopardy. Truthfully, addiction has the same relapse rates as other chronic diseases, according to the experts. Therefore, it is important that the recovering addict has an arsenal of tools and life skills to address the risks of relapse. During the course of residential treatment, he or she may participate in alternative and complementary therapies that are designed to last a lifetime. Yoga and meditation have been shown to:

  • Improve overall quality of life
  • Reduce stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Reduce anxiety levels
  • Reduce levels of depression
  • Decrease episodes of insomnia
  • Increase stamina and strength

As medical professionals return to the workplace, we here at Axis are here to help. We provide our clients with the tools needed to live their lives free from the effects of addiction. If you are a medical professional who is struggling with addiction, there is help available. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.