In the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Berge et al1 review the challenges associated with identifying and treating chemically dependent physicians. The authors inform readers that the nature of this dependency can vary, in part, by medical specialties and practice locations and that the risk of death from dependency is associated with the drugs used in clinical practice. We explore these issues in some detail, as well as the health and professional outcomes of chemically dependent anesthesiologists who have completed a treatment program. In our final analysis, we intend to provide a literature-based assessment of whether once-addicted anesthesiologists should, under any circumstances, be allowed to return to operating room-based anesthesia practice.
Relative to all other specialties, anesthesiologists are overrepresented in chemical dependency treatment populations and in monitoring programs. Although they account for 5% of all physicians, anesthesiologists constitute 13% to 15% of populations receiving treatment for chemical dependency in centers specializing in the treatment of physicians and in programs that monitor such physicians after treatment.2-4
Michael R. Oreskovich, MD Anesthesiologists Recovering From Chemical Dependency: Can They Safely Return to the Operating Room? Mayo Clinic Proceeedings 2009 July Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington.