Growing Number of Anesthesiologists Abusing Anesthetics

Addiction impacts all walks of life – it impacts men, women, the rich and famous, the poor and unemployed and renowned professionals alike.

Addiction is particularly a problem for professionals with high stress jobs such as airline pilots, lawyers and health care professionals. There are no particular drugs of choice associated with each professional group, but according to a recent study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, health care professionals are increasingly becoming addicted to Propofol, an anesthesic. This likely has to do just as much with access as it does drug preference as health care professionals have greater access to heavy sedatives.

Propofol is widely used in the procedural sedation of patients in order to prepare them for surgery. It is fast acting and has a fast recovery time. According to the study, “patients awaken feeling refreshed with little anesthetic hangover” after its administration. Many were unaware of Propofol’s abuse potential until it was one of the drugs associated with the death of Michael Jackson in 2009. In fact, over the past 20 years there have been higher incidences of admissions to addiction treatment for propofol abuse than before. The report states that each semi-decade since 1990 has resulted in a 25% increase in those admitted to rehab for Propofol abuse.

Most of those seeking addiction help for Proprofol worked as operating personnel and anesthesia providers and had access to the drug. Not surprisingly, most had a history of depressive disorder, a family history of addiction or a traumatic childhood. Reasons for abusing the drug varied between using it to sleep or to numb emotional pain. Because of the fast acting and strong nature of the drug, 50% of those admitted to treatment had sustained injuries such as car accidents or head injuries from passing out and falling down after injecting themselves with the anesthetic.

The nature of the drug makes it extremely dangerous not only because it knocks people unconscious but also because of its high overdose potential. It is because of this overdose potential that the study suggests that clinicians see their propofol dependence as a “condition best treated by terminating a career.”

This differs from addiction treatment outcomes for impaired professionals such as airlines pilots and lawyers who enter into programs that help them re-establish their career after addiction treatment.  But then again, they don’t have careers that require them to be around substances – such as anesthesiologists having to administer their drug of choice daily.

If you are an impaired professional seeking addiction help, our Impaired Professionals Addiction Treatment Program at Synergy Group Services can help. Please contact us today.

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