Treating Addiction in Medical Professionals

The medical field is a high-stress and high-risk profession. Likewise, the medical field involves difficult hours as well as experiencing traumatic events. Due to this, many medical professionals develop substance use disorders (SUDs), and the statistics of professionals turning to substance use seem to be on the incline.

It is important to recognize triggers, survey options for treatment if applicable, and prioritize your own health and stability before sacrificing your mental health and general well-being. 

Triggers in the Medical Field

Most people do not assume that medical professionals can struggle with addiction. However, many medical professionals turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. This can occur due to being triggered by certain events or situations on the job. Some of these triggers can include the following.

Access to Drugs

Medical professionals have very easy access to prescription medications. Due to this accessibility, medical professionals can obtain these substances without difficulty. Accessibility can be an urge for professionals. Since they have this sort of supply, it is easy, in hard times, to justify substance use. 

Intense Responsibility

In the medical field, one has an intense level of responsibility over patients’ lives. In some circumstances, one wrong or late decision can result in a patient’s death or trauma of any kind. This responsibility can become overwhelming, leading medical professionals to turn to substances to calm their nerves, emotions, or racing anxieties.

Outside Factors

Drinking patterns and a family history of alcohol or drug abuse are also factors in substance abuse for medical professionals. Likewise, one’s religious background, social network, substance access, professional and social influences, and ethical, moral, legal, and social compasses impact alcohol and drug abuse. 

There are also instances where people find themselves to be invincible. In other words, some do not believe they will become addicted to the substance they are using. This is a dangerous mindset, often leading to one’s addiction and being unaware that there is a problem.

Getting Help for Addiction

Despite the stigma, addiction in the medical field should not be something to be ashamed of. Alongside stigmas, many medical professionals steer away from treatment for fear of losing their licenses. Though this adds to the hesitation, seeking and receiving treatment helps create a healthier life, which decreases this fear entirely. 

If you find a co-worker or loved one in need of care, it is recommended to intervene and provide them with support and resources to help them start their recovery journey. Some signs that can point to addiction in medical professionals include:

  • Noticeably absent from work (such as unexplainable absences or frequent absences)
  • Disappearing from the work site while on the job
  • Near drug supply often, more so than necessary
  • Unreliability (with deadlines or appointments)
  • Productivity levels change frequently
  • Confusion, memory loss, or difficulty with concentration
  • Relations with those at work (including co-workers and patients) suffering
  • “Wastage” of drugs and inappropriate doses of narcotics
  • Sloppiness on the job (including handwriting or charting)
  • Wanting to inject narcotics into patients frequently
  • Personal appearance and hygiene deteriorating
  • Wearing specific clothing (i.e., long sleeves) when unnecessary or inappropriate
  • Personality changes (such as mood swings or anxiety)
  • Other staff members noticing changes 
  • Personal and professional isolation

If a co-worker or loved one exhibits any of these signs, it is recommended to receive or offer help. The first step of getting help is often an intervention.

Interventions for Medical Professionals

At A New Hope Recovery, teams are specialized to conduct interventions for medical professionals. During an intervention, the interventionist, family, friends, and the individual struggling work together to do the following: 

  • Understand the diagnosis or situation
  • Educate the team to provide the best treatment for the individual
  • Facilitate and prepare for the individual to start their journey
  • Transport the individual to a treatment center

Likewise, case management may occur to keep track of an individual’s progress and facilitate their addiction recovery journey. This includes:

  • Screening tests
  • Attending meetings and follow-ups
  • Coordinating meetings with therapists or psychiatrists
  • Initiating progress reports
  • Continuing to provide support services
  • Tracking if any new issues arise during treatment

Specifically for nurses, Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) and Program for Recovering Nurses (PRN) may be implemented. IPN works to educate, support, and monitor nurses with SUDs or other conditions. PRN, similarly, works to assist nurses in their recovery, working to return them safely to their profession. Both IPN and PRN work to keep nurses in their profession. 

Treatment and Aftercare for Medical Professionals

When medical professionals begin their recovery journey, it is essential to remember that they are supporting their own health as well as their patients. Staying sober and remaining on this track, with support, will lead to a better work-life and social life.

Once treatment is complete, the individual is not let back into the workforce or general social life without a support system. During treatment, the individual needs to implement different tactics and coping methods into their daily lives. Some of these may be guided, including therapy or relapse prevention strategies. Others, however, are in the hands of the individual. This can include meditation, journaling, or creating a more supportive and stable social life. 

Post-treatment aftercare therapy is also recommended to keep track of an individual after their treatment and provide a service for them to rely on and perceive as a support system. After treatment, this therapy provides a sense of support and security. It helps the individual understand that they are not alone and are capable of returning to their normal lives without bumps in the road. 

At A New Hope Recovery, we value each patient regardless of their background. This includes those in the medical field. We provide a non-judgemental, supportive community for those struggling and their loved ones. We implement an intervention program in order to understand each patient and develop a treatment plan that will yield the best results. After treatment is complete, we offer programs and different counseling tools for an individual to fall back on. We aim to understand, value, and support each individual in our programs. If a co-worker or loved one in the medical field is struggling with addiction, A New Hope Recovery is here to help. Call us today at (407) 501-8490 for more about our services.