We all know that doctors are people too, though many times they are placed upon pedestals where they don’t belong. The same percentage of doctors as the general public become substance abusers with 10-12% becoming impaired during the time they are in practice. The article goes through great lengths to have us believe in the success of the program based on the results of the 5 year study running from September 1995 to September 2001. It demonstrated that of the 780 physicians 63% of 144 the surgeons and 65% of 636 non-surgeons successfully completed monitoring programs within five years where they had to submit to random drug sampling that all is going better than expected in according to the medical world.
Though the American Medical Association is claiming this as a success and I suppose it is given the difficulty for many to release drug and alcohol habits, there is the upsetting reality that impaired doctors are preforming surgeries while other doctors are treating people without the cognitive abilities to do so in a competent manner.
There was another article that was posted November 10, 2010 by the NBC I-Team that discussed what happens when substance abusing doctors and nurses are treating their patients while impaired. The results aren’t pretty. The article details how a surgical technician injected herself with the drugs meant for the patient. She then replaced the drug she used for herself with a saline solution placing the used needle back into the patient. The end result was infecting the patient with hepatitis C. Worse, this technician ended up infecting a total of 36 patients before she was caught.
The sad fact is that doctors, nurses and medical technicians are not required to take any drug test, such as subway conductors or pilots do. The same American Medical Association who reported the success rates of substance abuse spoken about above is on record as being opposed to random drug testing of its members siting cost as being one of the main reasons. Confidentiality issues would be another. However, at Massachusetts General Hospital anesthesiologists and the nurses working with them are required to take random drug tests because of the potency and availability of these drugs to the these specialists. Dr. Michael Fitzsimmons who started the program states that the occurrence of substance abuse is the same with those in the medical profession as with the general population. So it is in the patients interest to make sure that they are being treated by professionals who are clean themselves. Dr. Fitzsimmons goes on to explain that Massachusetts General Hospital does spends thousands of dollars on these drug tests which many hospitals do not have the money to cover.
One needs to ask the question: Why it is that other occupational requirements are stronger in the regards to drug testing than that of those who have easy access to the substances themselves? These are people who are easily able to hide their addictions according to the professionals who were interviewed in these articles. Doctors are to do no harm, and yet, it seems that they feel that they are able to self monitor with the horrendous results of those reported above because of one surgical technician with a problem. Keep in mind this is only one case of a substance abusing medical professional.
What can you do about this issue? Be aware that medical professionals are only people who have huge responsibilities creating greater stressors on them than many others. Given that they are in the places where the most potent drugs are available they too may weaken and get addicted before they are even aware of what happened as these issues come about in a subtle manner. Getting help is difficult for any addict, even more so for doctors whose whole reputation is built on being honest and capable. This makes it a bit more difficult for them to seek the help they need and are sometimes forced by the accreditation bodies or institutions that they work in to seek the help they need or lose their licenses to practice. It seems to me that they ought to be forced to have the same random drug screenings as anyone who is in a profession where the public is placed at risk by being employed to do a job that requires the highest of competence to perform safely.
If you feel that your doctor may be having a problem, it is best to switch doctors to someone who you feel comfortable with. This may be a larger issue if you are admitted into an emergency room where the average substance abuse rate reaches as high as 20% given the huge stressors placed on these professionals in the fast paced world that they are being asked to perform in.
I would also suggest that you think clearly about who it is that you are asking to do anything for you given the fact that prescription drug abuse is going through the roof for the population as a whole. The newest rates sited are 139 million prescriptions were written for hydrocodone (opium based drugs) up from 112 million 4 years ago as reported in the Dawning Visions Hypnosis weblog “Oppose Opiates Live Life” – Vol. 128, December 1, 2011.
This is a serious issue that must be treated with the respect that it is due.
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