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Substance Abuse and Addiction in the Medical Profession

Medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, health aides, and technicians frequently suffer from extreme work responsibilities. These demands can cause sleep deprivation, physical pain, fatigue, and intense work-related stress from nonstop risks when exposed to illness, trauma, and death. These people are not unlike many others with stress and unreasonable demands who cope with the use of drugs and alcohol.

While most would agree that being a physician or surgeon is often stressful, the extent to which physicians differ from other occupational groups or segments of the population hasn’t been clearly demonstrated. In fact, research shows that the overall rate of substance abuse in the healthcare industry isn’t much different from that of the general population. It’s believed that 10%-15% of all medical professionals in the U.S. will misuse drugs or alcohol at some time in their careers. It makes sense that medical professionals are more likely to abuse prescription medications due to their access to medications. They have higher rates of abuse, frequently abusing benzodiazepines and opioid narcotics.

How Does Addiction and Substance Abuse in Healthcare Workers Effect Patients?

According to studies from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, at least 100,000 medical professionals have some type of substance abuse disorder. The characteristics of substance abuse such as a loss of control, intoxication, and withdrawal, can cause poor functioning on the job and negative patient outcomes.

Studies show that anesthesiologists and emergency room doctors are three times more likely to abuse substances than the general community of physicians

Far-reaching substance abuse by medical professionals raises a lot of concerns—one of which is the threat to patient care. Healthcare providers under the influence of substances (or having withdrawal symptoms) are more likely to make mistakes. This can include surgical errors, misdiagnoses, and failure to monitor patients in their care.

Healthcare Treating While Intoxicated

When you place yourself in the care of a physician, surgeon, or other medical professionals, you’re putting your health and even perhaps your life in their hands.

If an impaired doctor, nurse, or other medical worker makes a mistake because of drug or alcohol abuse, he or she is liable for medical malpractice and may be subject to a lawsuit from the injured patient.

In addition to holding the doctor or nurse responsible, the clinic or hospital that employed that individual or knowingly permitted him or her to treat patients while impaired, can also be held liable. In addition, in some instances, a co-worker or supervisor of the impaired doctor healthcare worker may be held at fault if they knew or should have known that person was impaired while treating patients and failed to act.

Contact us Today for a Free Consultation!

Performing any action under the influence of drugs or alcohol can have dramatic and negative consequences. If a physician, nurse, pharmacist, tech, or another member of a patient’s care team is under the influence, medical mistakes can easily be made.

For a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Grand Rapids and across Michigan, contact Buchanan Firm. We can discuss your situation if you believe you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical error, and substance abuse and addiction on the part of a healthcare professional may have played a role.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.