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15% of U.S. Surgeons Report Drinking Problems in Survey
Date:2/21/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol use disorders are a significant issue among U.S. surgeons, a new national survey reveals.

The online, anonymous poll indicated that 15 percent of surgeons appear to suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence: nearly 14 percent of male surgeons and 26 percent of female surgeons.

Those figures exceed the 8 percent to 12 percent figure typically cited for alcohol abuse rates among the public at large, according to background information in the study published in the February issue of Archives of Surgery.

"But it should be said that a number of studies have shown that direct patient harm associated with impairment due to chemical dependency is very, very rare," said survey lead author Dr. Michael Oreskovich, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"The chance of a patient being injured by an impaired surgeon is really very uncommon. Something like one in 10,000. So it just doesn't happen very much," he noted.

"However, the findings do beg the question as to why it is that every other safety-sensitive profession has random drug screenings, while surgeons do not," Oreskovich added. "Some anesthesiologists are finally undergoing this -- pre-employment drug screens, for-cause drug screens and random drug screens -- for the same reasons. And although it may not be a popular statement, there's no reason other interventionists involved in a high-risk practice should not be tested. And I think eventually we'll get there with surgeons."

In the study, the investigators analyzed surveys completed in 2010 by physicians from all across the United States, who were members of the American College of Surgeons.

All of the surveys were administered online and processed anonymously. However, less than one-third of the more than 25,000 surgeons to whom they wer
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