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Substance Use Disorders Among Emergency Physicians

Substance Use Disorders Among Emergency Physicians

The prevalence of substance use disorders among physicians ranges between 10% and 14%, a rate that is similar to that of the general population. “Research has shown that several specialties have a higher-than-expected rate of these disorders, most notably anesthesiology, emergency medicine, and psychiatry,” says John S. Rose, MD. Despite the reported higher rates of substance use disorders and participation in Physician Health Programs (PHPs) among these specialties, few studies have focused specifically on the prognosis and recovery of emergency physicians (EPs) in PHPs. Important New Data There are little data on whether EPs who receive treatment by PHPs have similar outcomes with these programs as other physicians. To address this research gap, Dr. Rose and colleagues conducted a study using data from 16 state PHPs that followed participants with substance use disorders for 5 or more years. Published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, the study compared outcomes of EPs with other practitioners who were enrolled in state PHPs. “Research has been limited regarding whether EPs perform as well as other physicians after treatment from PHPs,” Dr. Rose says. “We wanted to determine if there were any characteristics for EPs that were significantly different from those of other physicians.” For the study, investigators reviewed data on 904 physicians with a diagnosis of substance use disorders between 1995 and 2001. They compared 56 EPs with 724 other physicians and assessed rates of relapse, successful completion of monitoring, and return to clinical practice within 5 years. Overall, EPs had a higher-than-expected rate of substance use disorders. “EPs were almost three times as likely to be enrolled in a PHP...
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