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Alcohol/Drug Addiction and the Health Service Professional
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It is important for health service professionals to have a basic knowledge of alcohol/drug addiction. The following are essential features of an addiction:
- Alcohol/drug addiction is a primary disease. It has specific symptoms and is not to be confused with stress, painful relationships or difficult work demands.
- Alcohol/drug addiction is progressive. If left untreated, the symptoms of the disease worsen.
- Alcohol/drug addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder. It cannot be cured. The symptoms of dependency can be arrested, however, without significant lifestyle changes and continued recovery, the symptoms of addiction will reoccur.
- Alcohol/drug addiction can be fatal. Many accidental overdoses, and other deaths and suicides are the result of an individual's alcohol/drug dependence.
Health service professionals are at risk for alcohol/drug addiction for many reasons:
- Exposure and accessibility to mood-altering medications
- Pharmacological knowledge of the drugs fosters a false sense of control
- Health service professionals have a tendency to self-diagnose and self-medicate
- Health service professionals are constantly exposed to "medications" which fosters a belief drugs "will work" or they are the "solution"
- Health service professionals are rewarded for taking care of others (patients) above and beyond normal human limitations
- Focus is on caring for the patient, self-regulation is neglected
- Being a "healer" produces an affect of omnipotence or a sense of being invincible
- Many health service professionals develop a dependence to their job "they need me here, I can't go home" or "no one can do this job besides me"
Why Health Service Professionals do not get help:
- Fear of licensure problems
- Fear of losing employment, loss of practice privledges
- Lack of understanding about alcohol/drug addiction by colleagues, administrators, insurance companies and institutions
- Fear of being alone, "I'm the only alcohol/drug dependent professional"
- Lack of knowledge by treatment providers that minimizes or discounts the severity and extent of alcohol/drug addiction and health service professionals
- Fear of legal problems
- Concerns over malpractice issues
- Concerns regarding professional liability insurance coverage