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Medical Professionals, Mental Health And Opioids
Opioid abuse has been a public health concern for years. Much of the opioid epidemic occurs from patients who suffered major bodily injuries and needed strong medications like Methadone, codeine, pharmaceutical fentanyl, Vicodin, OxyContin, and morphine to recover. Eventually, they begin to develop a tolerance to the drug and seek out stronger alternatives. This tolerance has resulted in patients seeking extremely deadly opioids like synthetic fentanyl, heroin, carfentanil, Gray Death and Black Tar heroin. Unfortunately, millions of Americans began to abuse opioids due to its ability to provide euphoria. The American Medical Association cites 3% to 19% of people who take prescription medications become addicted. Furthermore, 45% of people battling a heroin addiction transitioned from prescription medications.
Individuals who work in the medical field suffer unique and high amounts of stress. Constantly caring for sick or dying patients can induce feelings of depression, anxiety, burn out, and fatigue. Having the responsibility to provide exceptional assistance to sick patients, along with comforting family members makes for challenging days at work. Furthermore, doing so under stressful circumstances adds more pressure to the equation. With the rise of COVID-19, medical professionals have had changes in their mental health. Spikes in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and isolation have also affected nurses and doctors providing care to patients. As a result, medical professionals have had to cope with troubling emotions in a variety of ways—some of which are not healthy.
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Medical Professionals And Opioid Abuse Findings
Physicians are 5 times more likely to abuse opioid pain medications, benzodiazepines, and anti-anxiety medications. Additionally, some studies have cited 10% to 12% of medical professionals struggle with addiction. Another 5-year study observing 904 physicians found 35.9% of them had an opioid use disorder after 50% battled alcoholism.
Medical professionals have immediate access to morphine and fentanyl and can take it for a variety of reasons at any time while working. In the case of opioids, those who take stronger ones like pharmaceutical fentanyl can become addicted after 1 dose.
Medical Professionals, Opioids, And Risk Factors
Risk factors can contribute to the abuse of opioids in medical professionals as well as in the general population such as: a history of substance abuse, their environment (highly stressful, depressive, traumatic, or accessibility), and a family history of drug abuse and a history of poor mental health. Being around people who they help deal with a variety of health conditions can create the temptation to begin using drugs readily available to soothe pain.
Medical Professionals’ Access To Opioids
Doctors sneaking doses of drugs and taking it on the clock is not unheard of. Being around the environment of drugs only makes it worse. Opening up about addiction as a medical professional creates much uncertainty. Doctors and nurses could lose their medical license, risking social embarrassment, job loss, and shame. If they are struggling with addition or mental health challenges, getting help may be more difficult in their minds since much is at risk of being lost. Nevertheless, getting help for such a powerful class of chemicals is best, rather than risking the health of the medical professional and their patients.
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Signs Of Opioid Abuse In Medical Professionals
Doctors and nurses who use drugs and are under the influence of an opioid risk impairing their ability to help sick patients. Signs of opioid abuse a medical professional may exhibit are, but are not limited to:
- Poor job performance
- Not showing up for work
- Drowsiness on the job
- Admitting to excessive opioid use
- Jokes about taking opioids for unauthorized reasons
- Problems sleeping
- Poor productivity
- Errors in medical documentation
- Increasing opioid dosage
- Poor hygiene
- Weight loss
- Problems concentrating or decision making
- Intense cravings
- Mismanaging money, stealing money or spending on drugs
It’s helpful to be able to spot signs of opioid abuse, especially in medical professionals. Since they have to be alert and healthy to save lives, noticing any irregular patterns of behavior could help them realize they have a problem.
Treatment For Opioid Abuse
Fortunately, medical professionals have unique treatment options that can help with sobriety. For starters, there are rehab facilities with detox programs ideal for medical professionals. Other facilities offer privacy for professionals, giving patients the confidentiality needed. Rehab facilities offer state of the art medications with monitoring for quality care. Common treatment medications for opioid abuse include:
- Methadone (prevents cravings, withdrawal symptoms. This can be addictive and needs to be monitored or regulated.)
- Buprenorphine (Reduces the effects of opioids by blocking them off. This drug also reduces withdrawal symptoms caused by opioids.)
- Naltrexone (Blocks the feelings of opioids and eliminates euphoric feelings caused by opioids.)
In addition, if someone experiences depression or anxiety post-treatment, they can receive medications and counseling to uncover motives behind substance abuse.
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Opioid abuse is a slippery slope that only gets worse with time. Sometimes opioid abuse can have fatal outcomes. If you or a loved one struggles with the grip of opioid abuse, contact a qualified treatment provider risk free. You deserve to heal and live a life of sobriety.
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