Addiction Rehab Treatment Resources for Physicians and Doctors

Alcohol & Drug Addiction Treatment For Medical Professionals Near Me

Healthcare professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists account for some of the highest substance use rates in the workforce. Across the United States, up to 10-12% of all medical professionals will battle substance use disorders (SUDs) during their careers, frequently involving narcotics like Fentanyl and Oxycodone.1, 2

Fortunately, medical professionals also have a high rate of recovery when they decide to get treatment. Studies show that approximately 71% of emergency room doctors who admitted the issue, checked into a healthcare and rehabilitation center for drug and/or alcohol addiction, and participated in ongoing monitoring, have managed to remain sober, licensed, and employed after 5 years.3

Substance Abuse in Health Care Professionals

Nurses and doctors are at an increased risk of developing SUDs due to their extensive knowledge of pharmaceuticals and easy access to highly addictive and sought-after substances. Many of them also tend to work long hours and suffer undiagnosed emotional trauma as a result of stressful working environments. This makes it more likely for these individuals to create and feed an SUD.1, 2

Due to the social stigma that is associated with substance abuse, and the fear of losing their license to practice medicine, many healthcare professionals who are struggling with SUDs tend to delay seeking help well past the point where professionals in other industries would admit to the problem and check themselves into a rehab program.1, 2

Substance Abuse Among Nurses and Doctors Statistics

Odd hours and intensive working conditions may cause some medical professionals to start using alcohol or drugs to cope. Recent studies have shown that:3, 4, 5

  • 7-18% of all doctors who are admitted to an addiction treatment center are emergency physicians. 
  • 69% of doctors who suffer from SUDs have misused prescription drugs in the past.
  • Anesthesiologists and ER doctors are 3 times as likely to struggle with SUDs than other medical professionals.
  • Anesthesiologists who battle SUDs have a higher risk of relapse, overdose, or suicide than other specialty doctors who are diagnosed with substance use disorders.
  • 72% of doctors who have completed evidence-based programs at accredited treatment centers were able to return to work and remain licensed and employed 5 years later.

Alcohol Abuse Among Doctors and Nurses

Alcohol abuse is a major contributor to SUDs across the United States, with about 7% of adult Americans being considered heavy drinkers. Although alcoholic nurses and doctors are not as numerous as alcoholics in other industries such as mining and hospitality, they still make up about 4.4% of all healthcare professionals.6

Despite the increased availability of evidence-based treatments for substance abuse and any co-occurring disorders that may accompany addiction, this rate has not changed significantly for more than a decade.6

Signs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Healthcare Professionals

Since medical professionals are tasked with helping others be healthy, maintaining a high standard of behavioral and mental health is essential. If you are a healthcare professional who is struggling with an SUD, or you suspect a colleague may be, you have an ethical and legal responsibility to seek treatment for yourself or your coworker.7

Common signs and symptoms of a drug-abusing or alcoholic doctor or nurse include:8

  • Falling asleep in-between shifts or while on the job.
  • Frequently arriving late or missing work.
  • Conflicts with colleagues and patients due to substance use.
  • Copious drinking during work functions.
  • Reduced quality of work (incomplete charting, paperwork errors, etc.).
  • Small or dilated pupils, or glassy or bloodshot eyes.
  • Smelling of alcohol or frequently using mouthwash or breath mints.
  • Frequently volunteering to administer narcotics to patients.
  • Long and frequent bathroom breaks or other absences.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Hand tremors, dizzy spells, or stumbling.
  • Irritable disposition.
  • Problems with finances, family, or relationships.
  • Fewer interactions with patients, coworkers, and supervisors.
  • Preferring night shifts due to reduced supervision and easier access to pharmaceuticals.

Why Do Medical Professionals Have a Higher Risk of Drug and Alcohol Misuse?

There are numerous unique aspects of a nurse or physician’s profession that put them at an increased risk of developing an SUD. This is particularly true of healthcare professionals who work exhausting and unpredictable hours, and have to make quick decisions regarding their patients’ wel14eing and health.4, 5

Many of these professionals regret and feel responsible for some choices they made while treating patients, especially if these choices have led to unfavorable outcomes. This can lead to depression, intense feelings of guilt, and other types of emotional trauma, all of which can drive an individual to seek relief in mood-altering substances.4, 5

Many nurses and doctors who go into rehab for SUDs also report chronic fatigue, lack of sleep, and physical and mental burnout as one of the main drivers behind their substance use. In these cases, medical professionals may turn to drugs that produce a high or euphoria in an attempt to keep themselves calm and alert during long and stressful shifts.4, 5

Healthcare professionals also have easy access to strong painkillers, antidepressants, and other prescription drugs that are not thoroughly accounted for as they are administered. They are also highly knowledgeable about these substances and how to properly administer them. This not only facilitates SUDs, but may also perpetuate them and make it easier for these individuals to conceal their addiction.2

How Does Substance Abuse Affect a Medical Professional’ Workplace?

Alcoholic and/or drug-abusing doctors and nurses are more likely than their sober coworkers to neglect patients’ health or cause an accident in the workplace. They may have trouble staying focused during appointments or surgical procedures, or even suddenly leave during these critical appointments to use substances.8

Healthcare professionals who are battling SUDs are not only risking their own health, but may also become unable to safely and effectively treat their patients. This can lead to lawsuits tied to medical negligence and malpractice, which can put their license to practice medicine in jeopardy and even cause them to be held criminally responsible.8

Substance-abusing nurses and doctors can cause significant damage to the reputation of the hospital or practice they work at. Negative word of mouth, scathing online reviews, and even unfavorable press coverage can significantly impair the trust patients have in the hospital or practice as a whole.8

Levels of Care Offered in Nurses and Doctors’ Rehab

Healthcare professionals who are battling addiction are often required to complete intensive initial treatments, prolonged follow-up programs, and comprehensive 12-step recovery. Alcohol and drug rehab for nurses and doctors has been shown to be very effective at ensuring long-term recovery, with over 72% of participants successfully staying sober and employed 5 years after completing treatment.8

Different levels of care offered in doctor and nurse recovery programs include:9

Depending on their specific needs and preferences, therapy for medical professionals may also include more specialized programs, such as:9

Do Doctors’ Treatment Centers Provide Mental Health Treatment?

SUDs are frequently accompanied by co-occurring mental health disorders that may have been caused or exacted by the patient’s substance use. Undiagnosed mental health disorders can drive an individual to attempt to manage stress by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.10

Many healthcare professionals work in highly stressful environments that require them to make spur-of-the-moment decisions that can have life-changing consequences for their patients. This can lead to significant emotional trauma, chronic mental and physical fatigue, and deep feelings of self-reproach.4, 5

These feelings can cause doctors and nurses to develop serious mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If left unaddressed, these issues can lead to substance abuse in nursing as a way to relieve the discomfort they cause.10

During the intake assessment process at doctors’ rehab, treatment-seeking medical professionals are checked for co-occurring mental health disorders. If the patient is diagnosed with one or more of these disorders, their treatment will be adjusted to simultaneously address both their SUD and their co-occurring disorder(s).10

What To Expect in a Medical Professional’s Rehab?

Exactly what is included in an addiction treatment program will depend on the patient’s unique needs and the specifics of their SUD. Individuals who have mild SUDs and a supportive home environment may be best served by outpatient therapy, while long-time substance users who have relapsed in the past and struggle with complex co-occurring disorders may require prolonged and intensive inpatient care.9

Most outpatient programs include multiple visits to a doctors’ rehab center per week for counseling and therapy. Partial hospitalization programs also include periodic overnight stays, while inpatient programs include extended stays at addiction treatment facilities. A typical day in inpatient rehab includes:9

  • Breakfast
  • Individual and/or group therapy sessions
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Support groups or meetings following the 12-step program

How Long Does Addiction Treatment for Medical Professionals Last?

The duration of treatment is determined based on a patient’s specific needs and situation, and can last anywhere between a few days to a couple of years. The severity of their SUD and any co-occurring disorders is a key factor in determining the duration of treatment. Evidence has shown that long-term treatment programs have a higher chance of lasting recovery and relapse prevention than shorter-term programs.9

Physicians may also enlist in specialized physician care programs (PHPs). These programs do not actually treat SUDs, but are rather designed to help the physician retain their medical license, remain employed, and prevent prosecution and professional consequences. Over 88% of PHP contracts last 5 years and require medical professionals to maintain complete abstinence and participation in 12-step programs.11

How To Select a Doctor and Nurse Recovery Program for Substance Addiction?

Treatment-seeking individuals are often faced with advertisements that promise quick and easy solutions that are not backed by scientific evidence and frequently fail to deliver the promised  results. To maximize the possibility of long-term success, medical professionals should choose treatment centers that use evidence-based methods and deliver higher levels of care. The best way to do this is to select treatment centers that are accredited by trusted organizations such as CARF and the Joint Commission.12, 13

Other variables to consider when choosing a doctors’ rehab program include:

  • Staff certifications and patient’s ratio
  • Mental health resources
  • Types of therapies and treatments available
  • Length of treatment
  • Track record
  • Specialties
  • Amenities
  • Inpatient vs outpatient
  • Cost
  • Insurance coverage

Financing Options for Drug Rehab for Healthcare Professionals

The cost of SUD therapy for medical professionals can vary widely depending on the length, type, and intensity of treatment, which facility and state the treatment is taking place in, whether the treatment-seeking individual has insurance, and more. Fortunately, most healthcare plans are required to include some level of SUD coverage.14

To determine exactly what coverage is available under your policy, speak to a representative from your insurance company. If you do not have insurance, you may also be able to privately fund your treatment or enroll in state-funded doctors’ rehab facilities near you that offer free SUD treatment programs.14

Some expenses are highly unlikely to be covered by insurance. These include:9

  • Private therapies
  • Non-medical amenities
  • Recreation programs
  • Holistic care
  • Alternate treatments
  • Food delivery services

Should Doctors and Nurses Travel for Rehab or Stay Near Home?

This is entirely up to the treatment-seeking individual. Some healthcare professionals may prefer the familiarity and convenience that a local treatment center offers, while others may select non-local rehabilitation because of privacy concerns or the specific therapies it offers. Before choosing non-local rehabilitation, patients should make sure this type of treatment is covered under their policy.14

How To Find Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers for Nurses and Doctors?

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a nationwide network of substance abuse treatment centers that can help medical professionals get evidence-based treatment for their SUDs, restore their reputation and career, return to professional practice, address disciplinary and licensing matters, and avoid potential triggers in and out of the workplace.

For more information, call our free helpline and discuss your situation in absolute confidentiality with our trained and knowledgeable admissions navigators. Our team will answer any questions you may have, aid you in verifying your insurance coverage, provide tailored treatment recommendations, and even help you get admitted into same-day rehab, all during the same phone call.

AAC facilities are located throughout the country and are in-network with leading insurance providers. Our navigators will help you or your loved one find a treatment center that is right for you and guide you through every stage of the admission process to make sure you or your loved one receive effective treatment. We have helped many people overcome their SUDs in the past and we can do the same for you.

Frequently Asked Questions