Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How do we treat Doctors with Addiction problems?

A recent article from The Journal of Substance abuse treatment, written by Robert DuPont MD and others, reviewed how we treat physicians with addiction. They reviewed the records of 904 physicians and remarkably 78% had no drug screens positive for alcohol or drugs over a 5 year period.

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They looked at the features of the treatment programs that lead to this remarkable success rate. What they found was that the physicians were treated over an extended period of time in excellent residential or outpatient programs. Usually the physicians were treated in an inpatient program for about 3 months and then they were given less intense follow up treatment in outpatient programs that could last for 3 to 12 months. They were subject to random drug tests. There were usually programs to help the family members learn about addiction and how they could help. The physicians were typically closely linked with 12 step programs.

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My own recovery began back in 1984, and I was treated in this same kind of intensive and extended program. I have now been clean and sober for over 25 years and the other physicians that I know who received this kind of treatment are also doing well.

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This is why we try as hard as we can to get our patients to commit to intensive, comprehensive and long lasting treatment. If they will agree to this and then participate in it they have the best chance of lifelong recovery. We can all learn from these doctors.

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Dr Peter Coleman

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