St. Louis, September 2021 – Physician: heal thyself. It is an adage that in many ways has never been timelier than today.
“We are supposed to be this caring, compassionate, loving and healing profession,” Sue, a former nurse and INSynergy program alumni said. “Until it is you.”
Studies show that the rate of prescription drug abuse by doctors is higher than that of the general population by 500%.
“Tons of doctors, and tons of nurses (deal with addiction),” Sue said. “It is huge.”
Sue was a nurse when she became addicted to opiates following a prescription after a painful accident. She stayed hooked on opiates in part because she was able to steal drugs from the hospital where she worked.
“Taking two at a time turned into taking three at a time which turned into taking four,” Sue said. “I was a mess.”
Eventually Sue lost her nursing license but found the assistance she needed to start a new career and life by getting help at INSynergy. Sue credits the personalized, medically based care she received at INSynergy with saving her life.
According to a study published by the Journal of Addiction Medicine, 69% of Doctors reported that they abused prescription medicine to relieve stress, physical or emotional pain.
“I thought my life, my career, my family and everything was over,” said an accomplished surgeon we will call Jerry whose alcohol and drug dependence led him to take a medical leave of absence resulting in him stepping away from the operating table while he focused on getting healthy again.
Thanks to INSynergy, Jerry found a path to sobriety.
“There was a lot of shame and a lot of guilt that comes with it, especially in the medical field,” Jerry said. “We are held to a bit of a higher standard, rightfully so.”
“You should have known better,” Jerry said. “Unpacking that guilt and shame was hard.”
Medical professionals are no different than anyone else who is facing an addiction issue when it comes to confronting the fact that they are addicted to a substance like alcohol or drugs.
“We’ve seen medical professionals who feel they can play around or experiment with substances,” Doctor Arturo Taca Jr. said. “And a lot of times when they come in they are showing biological withdrawal symptoms.”
“At that point they just can’t walk away from it,” Dr. Taca said. “It has become a medical situation.”
Addiction is a mental health issue that can impact any human being. And health professionals are all human.
“Individuals that struggle with addiction have one commonality and it’s that they wear their heart on their sleeves” Ashley Halker, MHA, Director of Operations for INSynergy said. “Nurses, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, all of these other areas of medicine have that exact same quality.”
“These individuals will sometimes turn to an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with the vulnerability of that kind of exposed heart on your sleeve kind of feelings,” Halker said.
“When you have somebody who has high status like a physician come in and admit they have no control,” Dr. Taca said “It is eye-opening.”
“Of course I knew better,” Sue said. “But it is just such a cunning, baffling, wicked, deceiving disease. And the one you are doing the most deceit and harm to is yourself.”
“Secrets make us sick,” Sue said. “Honesty is one of the best antidotes for addiction. Stay honest. Just stay honest.”
“Having an addiction does not make a nurse a bad nurse,” Halker said. “Having an alcohol problem does not make a doctor a bad doctor, as long as they are addressing that and getting well.”