Monday, June 16, 2014

1:10 Lifetime risk of doctors abusing drugs

I saw this on mainstream news this morning and it really frightened me.

This pertains to all area's of medicine and I am concerned about this in every area of my life.  I have children who may need medical attention from time to time and no matter how old they are, if anything happened to them because of negligence like this I would feel responsible til the day I died.  I have parents nearing their 70's, who have so far been very healthy, but also pretty trusting of the medical establishment that I have little faith in.  It's a powerless feeling because I'm not often included in the loop when they are going to see the doctor most of the time,  I hear about it afterwards.  I also spend a reasonable amount of time providing advocacy for my clients in the hospital during labor and birth, and while I can't look back and pick out ANYONE who appeared to be under the influence, it seems  improbable, based on these statistics, that I haven't been in the presence of a doctor or nurse who was abusing prescription drugs while actively providing care for one of my clients.  Tolerance is a powerful thing, and if the man in this piece could have been taking 100 doses of Vicodin per day and no one knew he was under the influence, the same is true for all the others too.  He's human and so are they.

I have to admit that while I am highly skeptical of the privatized, for-profit model of medical care in our country, and I am very aware of over-treatment caused by policy, practice, desensitization and fear of litigation, this idea had literally NEVER crossed my mind.  They are just people, and subject to substance abuse as much...if not more so than everyone else.  Doctors may even be uniquely positioned to have a higher than average rate of substance abuse.

  • Easy access to pharmaceuticals
  • Friends with other docs who can/will write a prescription
  • Stress
  • Fear
  • Worry
  • PTSD or other mood disorders
  • Pressure
  • Competition
  • Crazy hours
I have yet to meet a doctor in a social situation who doesn't constantly complain about how their job is so much "worse" "more stressful", "demanding", "more important", "harder", "more annoying", combined with the fact that throughout all their training, all their years of practice, there are only ever two ways to treat any diagnosis, and the definition of pain or diagnosable factors that can be treated with those two, A. Surgery or B. Pharmaceuticals, has been diluted to a ridiculous degree. The perception of their larger than average burden, coupled with the well known and often joked about "god complex" could also play a role in their sense of entitlement to "take the edge off" while they are treating other people.

One in Ten is a horrifying number folks.  It's pretty much russian roulette.  I just looked up a couple of local clinics and there were roughly 10 in each.  That is some scary math, even when you factor in the idea of "lifetime risk".  I have taken my children to one of them on several occasions, entrusted them to provide safe care, and perhaps they did.  Perhaps they didn't.  That is frightening. I don't have any solution to offer, I only share to spread the word and do my part to increase public awareness.  I wish wellness and freedom and happiness to all those out there who have fallen prey to prescription (or any other) drug abuse, and I hope that public awareness will create movement toward mandatory drug testing and transparency in clinics, private practices and hospital staff so that we can know who we are hiring to practice medicine on ourselves and our families.

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