GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Doctors who become addicted to alcohol and other drugs can be treated successfully and returned to medical practice with the help of special programs that couple referral to treatment and monitoring with rapid responses to noncompliance, University of Florida researchers report.
The study is the first national-level analysis of such Physician Health Programs, and confirms they are effective alternatives to simply punishing drug-addicted doctors. The findings are published in the March issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
More than three-quarters of doctors enrolled in state programs stayed drug-free over a five-year monitoring period. The results were the same regardless of whether the doctor's drug of choice was alcohol, crack cocaine, prescription drugs or other substances.
"Treatment works," said Dr. Mark Gold, psychiatry chairman at the UF College of Medicine and the McKnight Brain Institute. "It has been shown now to be safe and effective and cost-effective."
But it's not just for doctors, said Gold, who with UF colleagues pioneered evaluation and treatment for drug-addicted doctors. "It should be a model for treatment of anyone with these diagnoses."
In general, rates of illicit drug use are lower among physicians than the general public, but rates of prescription misuse are five times higher among physicians, according to a 2008 review Gold co-authored in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.
Gold and others conclude that drug problems in doctors are related to medical specialties that put them in regular contact with drugs of addiction, ease of access to drugs, stress and lack of early detection. Addiction also appears linked to physician-suicide.
Physician Health Programs are not addiction treatment programs, however. Instead, they provide intensive, long-term case management and monitoring. Fifty-five percent of doctors enrolled are mandated formally
|Contact: Czerne M. Reid|
University of Florida