“You’re on a pedestal as a physician, and you’ve got all these societal expectations … in some ways it’s harder to ask for help because nobody expects you to want or need help.”
~ Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a Boston physician and former Vicodin addict
Doctors struggling with addictive issues face unique challenges. Although the rate of substance abuse among physicians is about the same as the rest of the general population – roughly 12% – medical professionals are more reluctant to seek professional treatment for fear of hurting their careers or even losing their medical licenses.
This is a particular problem in California. Unlike most other states, California does NOT have a physicians’ treatment program that allows addicted doctors who are reported for substance abuse to go to rehab without jeopardizing their licenses.
Medical Knowledge Can Hide Addiction
“There’s an invulnerability: ‘Well, I’ll just do this the right way, and it’ll never be a problem. I’ll just do this the right way and I’ll never overdose.’ Somehow, they believe their knowledge is going to be more powerful than addiction.”
~ Dr. Marvin Seppala, addiction expert
Physicians are trained to recognize the warning signs of drug abuse. Unfortunately for some, this also means that they know how to hide those signs better than other people. This allows them to escape notice, leading to the worsening of their addiction.
A Teachable Moment?
“The medical community thinks it’s immune from this disease, but that’s not true. There are so many practitioners working impaired and we have no idea. … We’re doing a terrible job addressing this problem.”
~ Anita Bertrand, a nurse anesthesiologist in Houston
In 2016, Dr. Carmen Puliafito, the Dean of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, resigned his post after reports that he used methamphetamines and other drugs.
The University took a hard stance. USC President C.L. Max Nikias wrote, “We are outraged and disgusted by this individual’s behavior.” Dr. Puliafito was stripped of his faculty tenure, terminated, and barred from participating or attending any USC events.
Where he was once a highly-respected member of his profession, Dr. Puliafito currently has a suspended medical license, according to the Medical Board of California.
Perhaps this very public fall from grace could have been addressed with a degree of compassion that could inspire others to seek help.
One thing IS for sure – situations such as Dr. Puliafito’s highlight three key points:
- The disease of addiction can happen to ANYONE.
- Unchecked substance abuse ruins lives.
- Early intervention and voluntary treatment can make all the difference before official reports, discipline, and career derailment become inevitabilities.
Lasting Recovery outpatient drug rehab in San Diego understands that even successful professionals can be affected by the disease of addiction. If you need help, Lasting Recovery is one of Southern California’s most-trusted substance abuse treatment resources.
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