Chemical Dependency and the Physician

Berge, Keith H.; Seppala, Marvin D.; Schipper, Agnes M.
July 2009
Mayo Clinic Proceedings;Jul2009, Vol. 84 Issue 7, p625
Academic Journal
Although the nature and scope of addictive disease are commonly reported in the lay press, the problem of physician addiction has largely escaped the public's attention. This is not due to physician immunity from the problem, because physicians have been shown to have addiction at a rate similar to or higher than that of the general population. Additionally, physicians' addictive disease (when compared with the general public) is typically advanced before identification and intervention. This delay in diagnosis relates to physicians' tendency to protect their workplace performance and image well beyond the time when their life outside of work has deteriorated and become chaotic. We provide an overview of the scope and risks of physician addiction, the challenges of recognition and intervention, the treatment of the addicted physician, the ethical and legal implications of an addicted physician returning to the workplace, and their monitored aftercare. it is critical that written policies for dealing with workplace addiction are in place at every employment venue and that they are followed to minimize risk of an adverse medical or legal outcome and to provide appropriate care to the addicted physician.


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