Addiction is a serious medical and social issue that affects millions of Americans. Some people abuse alcohol, while others abuse prohibited drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine. Still others will over-consume or intentionally abuse prescription medications.
People in the medical profession are subject to far more scrutiny than most other professionals. However, their jobs are also incredibly stressful, which may push them to self-medicate. Additionally, working long hours constrain personal relationships, another reason why people may overindulge in mind-altering substances.
Sadly, addiction is a major issue in the healthcare profession and can impact the quality of care that patients receive.
How big of an issue is addiction among healthcare professionals?
It is impossible to pinpoint the exact number of medical professionals impacted by addiction. Only those who self-report issues, face licensing consequences or get charged with a crime will generally influence statistics. However, what information exists paints a grim picture.
Federal data suggests that just under 5% or one in 20 medical professionals have an issue with frequent overconsumption of alcohol. Easy access to prescription drugs is another issue. In one study, more than two-thirds of doctors admitted abusing a prescription drug at least once during their careers.
A nurse or doctor under the influence of alcohol or prescription medication in the workplace could make mistakes in the care that they provide. They could fall asleep on the job or reach wildly inaccurate conclusions because of their impairment. In some cases, medical professionals struggling with addiction will do real harm to one of their patients due to using their substance of choice while on the job.
Health care professionals should put their patients first
Those struggling with addiction to medication or alcohol absolutely deserve compassion and support as they tackle the underlying causes of their addictions. However, they should not allow their issues to impact the safety and well-being of others.
If someone tries to go to work while under the influence of medication or hungover from drinking the night before, they can make mistakes that most other medical professionals would recognize as malpractice. Connecting a professional’s substance abuse to an unfavorable outcome or a failed diagnosis could lead to a successful medical malpractice claim by a patient impacted by addicted medical professionals.
Recognizing that negligence, such as chemical impairment on the job, can constitute medical malpractice, could motivate you to seek justice.