One in six doctors hooked on alcohol or drugs

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: doctors, alcohol, health news

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(NaturalNews) According to surveys of British hospitals, one in six doctors will be addicted to alcohol or illegal drugs at some point during their medical career. A full third of junior male doctors and one in five junior female doctors admit to having used cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy or hallucinogenic drugs.

"The problems will become more acute in future, as drug and alcohol dependency is becoming more common in the population as a whole," reads "Invisible Crisis," a government-funded report into the problem.

"It may be easy to spot a health professional who is obviously under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but persistent and long-term substance misuse can be harder to pick up and the consequences for quality and safety of care harder to predict," the report reads. "Working while under the influence of drugs or alcohol increases the chances that healthcare workers will make mistakes and communicate poorly with colleagues and patients."

Interviews conducted by the Daily Mail back up assertions that a culture of drinking prevails among health professionals, with some doctors confessing to hooking themselves up to saline drips or writing themselves prescriptions to ease the effects of binge drinking. One survey found that the average medical school student knows less about safe drinking levels than the average grade school student.

The problem is exacerbated by a patchwork of weak guidelines and regulations. Unlike bus or train drivers, doctors in the United Kingdom are never made to submit to random drug or alcohol testing, and there are no national regulations barring them from drinking on duty. Rules at individual hospitals also vary widely.

General practitioner Michael Wilks, a former alcoholic and now the deputy chairman of the Sick Doctors Trust, says his profession is in denial about the scale of the crisis.

"Doctors are taught to be decisive and they are treated with respect," he said. "So to ask for help, you have to climb down off your pedestal and admit you have a problem."

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