Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals have a reputation for being tough and resilient. So the thought that they could also struggle with substance use is hard to fathom. But it happens more than people know. According to Critical Care Medicine, “[A]pproximately 10% to 15% of all healthcare professionals will misuse drugs or alcohol at some time during their career.” The type of pressure that medical professionals face can lead to depression and sometimes substance use. But those who find themselves using substances in an unhealthy and unsafe manner can get the help that they need. Substance abuse treatment is readily available for everyone, including those who work in healthcare.
The Stigma Around Healthcare Professionals and Substance Abuse Treatment
Healthcare workers are known for being the toughest of the toughest. They are on the front lines helping people who come into their clinics and hospitals. Healthcare workers must be able to handle physical pain as well as emotional when caring for any patient who walks through their doors. They might feel like they have to be tough and resilient and show no weakness. But that is simply not true. They deserve to receive substance abuse treatment when they need it.
The Commitment of a Healthcare Worker
When someone chooses to enter the healthcare profession, it is expected of them to often work many hours. Some work days on end without a day off. Some professions, like surgeons, may end up being at the hospital for days before they get a break to go home. Especially in high-stress times, like during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although they “signed up” for these long hours, it is still important to understand and validate the struggle healthcare workers encounter.
The Pressure Can Lead to Depression
These pressures that healthcare professionals face can lead to mental health struggles like depression. If left untreated, depression and other mental health struggles can lead to more harmful behaviors like substance use. It is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are someone in the healthcare field struggling with a substance use problem, you are not alone. There are many people who turn to substances to manage the stress and mental health distress that can come from these demanding professions.
The Dangers of Substance Use
Although there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to needing help for your substance use problem, it is important to understand how dangerous it is to use substances while working as a healthcare professional.
Abuse of substances and addiction can cause both physical and mental health problems:
Physical Health Problems
Many physical health problems can occur because of substance use, including the following:
- Damage to the brain and nerve cells
- Infections of the heart
- Lung disease
- Hepatitis B and C
- Overdose and death
If you already have physical health problems, substance use can worsen them.
Mental Health Problems
The use of substances can create or exacerbate mental health issues like depression and anxiety. These types of mental health struggles can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks and tasks at work. They can impair your focus and interfere with your concentration. Both can be dangerous in the professional space of healthcare workers.
Along with physical and mental health problems, the abuse of substances can greatly interfere with your work as a healthcare worker, especially if an addiction forms and you begin to use substances at work. Treating patients while under the influence is extremely dangerous and illegal. You should never do anything that might impair your mind while working as a healthcare worker. You need to have a clear mind at all times while you treat patients. At times, their lives are literally in your hands.
Substance Abuse Treatment Is Available
The hopeful thing is to remember that substance abuse treatment is available for all healthcare workers, regardless of job title. It is crucial to get help as soon as possible before you potentially harm a patient or lose your license. There are many options to look into when you are ready to get help.
You can start by talking to your employer to see if they will help get you into a treatment facility. They may even help pay for your treatment and might be willing to hold your job for you while you are in treatment. You can also look at what your insurance will cover. Many insurances cover some type of substance abuse treatment.
At Buena Vista, we have special programs for medical professionals, along with first responders. We take the seriousness of your profession into consideration as we create an individualized treatment plan for you to overcome your substance use problem. We also want to take the time to help you learn new stress management skills and learn to deal with the demand of your profession. It is not too late, and you are not alone in this.
Many healthcare professionals struggle with substance abuse, which doesn’t make them bad people or nurses, doctors, or first responders. It can happen so fast that many do not even realize they have a problem. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or addiction, you can get help right now. Someone is willing to sit and talk with you about your options to get help, so you are not alone. You are not the first one to have a problem like this. It is more common than people realize, and we want to help you through it. For more information about how we can help at Buena Vista, call (480) 741-9414 today.