Physicians and other professionals in high accountability or safety sensitive jobs typically go to great effort to hide symptoms of an addictive disorder or cognitive impairment. Their resourcefulness, determination and intelligence means they may continue to function fairly well until their condition has advanced significantly. Bringing up your concerns with the individual will likely be met with denial, excuses, anger or indignation.
Yet statistics suggest that from 8 to 12% of physicians and nurses will develop a substance abuse problem during their career. Other research indicates pilots and attorneys have similar rates.
How do you know if a professional needs help? Here are possible signs of substance use:
• Increased errors or oversights
• Change in reliability or patterns of behavior
• Disruptive or erratic behavior
• Change in personality
• Evidence of emotional distress or mood swings
• Deteriorating personal hygiene
• Changes in personal relationships, such as marital problems or increasing isolation from friends and co-workers
• Inability to concentrate
• Multiple driving under the influence (DUI) citations