Drug abuse and addiction are part of every part of society. When most people envision drug abuse or addicts they commonly think about young adults and the very depressing images of gutter-stricken heroin junkies. What most fail to recognize are the millions of others who are functioning addicts. These are the neighbors, teachers, business elite, family-heads, and even physicians. Drug addiction can affect every level of society. Addiction does not discriminate. The current quagmire that this country faces is combating the increasing problem of prescription drug abuse. Prescription drugs are the most commonly abused drug in this country and are responsible for most of the drug problems it faces. Physicians are not an exception to this problem. In fact, it makes the most sense because they are the ones that provide the prescriptions for those drugs. Many prescription drug addicts must turn to illegal routes to obtain their drugs, but physicians have the shortest road to them. As of a 1992 study, roughly 10 to 15% of physicians have trouble with addiction.

Cause of Addiction

The definitive cause of addiction has yet to be discovered. Each individual is significantly different and the complexity of the brain makes this solution hard to discover. What we do know about drugs and addiction states that a combination of environment, genetics, and psychological factors. Studies have proven that individuals who grew up in a home where substance abuse was present have a higher chance of substance abuse than others. Those that have a history of substance abuse in their family are more likely to develop an addiction. Some studies have shown that the effects drugs have on people can be different and increase someone’s likelihood of addiction. Some can take a drug and feel euphoric side effects, while others feel nauseas and get sick. Individuals suffering from mental disorders are more likely to develop addictions and should not use prescription medications without supervision from a physician.

Physicians’ Addictions

Putting the genetics aside, physicians can be at high risks for substance abuse and addiction as a result of their profession. Environmental triggers and workplace stressors are common in the medical profession. Doctors carry an intense amount of stress and anxiety from their profession. There have been several studies and articles that refer to the medical profession as miserable. Stories and evidence describe a position hat leads to early career burnout and dissatisfaction. The medical field is a complex and intense profession. It takes a different type of person to be able to handle that stress and anxiety. These factors can often lead a physician to self-medicate. Self-medication is one of the most dangerous practices; even physicians should have physicians. Self-medication has a high risk for danger, abuse and addiction. The demands of a doctor coupled with the easy access to medications make the medical field a high risk area for substance abuse. When this is added to the high potential of abuse and addiction that prescription medications have creates a dangerous formula.

Help for Physicians

Since the 1970’s, state physician health programs have been used to support struggling doctors. It was created by volunteer doctors who wanted to help their colleagues. This program is now operated under the umbrella of state licensing boards. It serves to assist with evaluation, diagnosis, and then monitoring of physicians with substance-use disorders. The program works to get these doctors treatment and help them keep their licenses. A recent study shows that 75% of the doctors with substance-use disorders were able to have positive outcomes after a five year surveillance period. Identifying the substance abuse disorder is the first step towards help.