Physicians and nurses account for one of the highest rates of drug and alcohol addiction within the American workforce. Drug alcohol abuse among medical professionals puts patients at high risk for serious injuries caused by a misdiagnosis of health conditions, surgical errors, wrong medications, and improper follow-up care. As a result, allegations of substance abuse can impact a medical professional’s career.
Substance Abuse Among Medical Professionals
Medical professionals across the country are struggling with addiction. According to a recent USA Today report, more than 100,000 licensed physicians, nurses, medical technicians, and other healthcare workers are addicted to some type of illegal drug or alcohol, and it may be impacting their professional medical performance.
Although problems with drug and alcohol abuse among the general population are well-known, addiction among medical professionals has been kept out of the spotlight. However, studies show that substance abuse within the medical profession is as high as it is within the general population, just more closely guarded to protect hospitals and professionals against legal liability. Accusations of negligence due to substance abuse have a significant impact on medical licensing. If allegations of drug or alcohol addiction are made by a patient, or a patient suffers harm due to a physician’s addiction, a professional license defense attorney would be necessary to handle legal claims filed by injury victims.
Research indicates that approximately 10-12% of physicians will develop a substance abuse disorder during their careers. Addictions are most common with drugs like Oxycodone and Fentanyl, powerful substances that are easily accessible in hospitals and medical facilities. It is also likely that drug addiction will not be recognized until it reaches an advanced stage. This delay in diagnosis is usually linked to a physician’s attempt to protect a professional image and medical performance record.
Recognizing signs of addiction in a medical professional may be difficult. Physicians and nurses addicted to drugs or alcohol are typically highly functioning addicts who are able to maintain a career, home life, and substance abuse for an extended time period without others noticing a problem. Common signs of addiction include:
- Falling asleep on the job
- Dilated pupils or glassy eyes
- Requests for night shifts with less supervision
- Anxious behavior related to working overtime
- Volunteering to administer drugs to patients
- Unexplained absences
Patient injuries or deaths caused by a medical professional’s addiction will likely lead to a personal injury lawsuit that requires a professional license defense attorney to prevent the revocation of a medical license.