Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Anesthesiologists and Narcotic Drug Addiction

All anesthesiology programs nationwide are required to hold a department meeting with the new anesthesiologist residents at the beginning of their training and discuss the issues of narcotic drug addiction. Anesthesiologists are more than four times more likely than other physicians to have a drug addiction.

My husband had his meeting last week.

The invitation to the meeting stated it would be the only time that it would be "required" for the resident to bring a spouse/partner/loved one/close friend with him/her.

We scrambled to find a sitter, in our new neighborhood.

I muscled my way through Seattle traffic without my kids and the advantage of the carpool lanes.

First, a movie presentation, covering facts about the drugs: methadone, propofol, fentanyl, and other drugs typically used by anesthesiologists. Even very low doses of the powerful drugs that the anesthesiologists administer in the operating room are extremely addictive. And then a detailed description of the death of an anesthesiology resident who overdosed on a drug while in his call room during one of his shifts.

It was horrible.

Then, a recovered drug, and alcohol, addict anesthesiologist and his wife both spoke about their experience with his addition.

It was scary.

The director of the anesthesiology program also spoke, along with the director of a physicians health program that directly deals with substance abuse, etc. conditions that affect practicing physicians.

They opened it up to questions. Only two people in the room of about 50 raised their hands with concerns. My husband was one of them. I don't think I'll worry about him - he is not the one thinking "Oh come on, this will never happen to me." Instead, he was asking questions about how to better prepare himself to avoid any possible experience with the drugs.

For the first time, I was actually grateful for his biking obsession and his disciplined dependence on 2-3 Diet Cokes per day. I can't imagine going through the stress that he is going through, without something! If it were me, I would be consuming huge amounts of chocolate every day, and I would weigh at least 40 lbs. more than I do now. His way seems healthier to me.

The recovering addict anesthesiologist spoke about how he never learned to deal with stress or problems, besides getting drunk. The addiction to the narcotics followed easily.

An important point missed in my opinion: a recommendation that the anesthesiologists (whether in their residencies or practicing) never try the drug in the first place, (I'm sure this requires an enormous amount of discipline). This meeting focused more on what to do if a resident becomes addicted to a drug.

I found an interesting article about the powerful narcotics being present in very small doses in the air during operating procedures. Researchers suspect that the repeated administration of the drugs during long shifts in the operating room may lead to drug sensitivity of the anesthesiologist.

Yikes, I have to follow up on that one.

At the meeting, the director of the physicians health program stated: without a doubt all of the residents in the room would have a colleague who would struggle with addiction during their practice, and that at least one of residents in the room would actually find themselves addicted to one of the drugs they would be administering.


Interesting, and scary.


Amy's Blog! said...

Thank you for this, my bf is sending out his list at the end of the month and will be applying for residency in anestesiology programs and wants to go into pain medicine.

I am guessing I will hear this meeting as well.

The Randalls said...

Interesting stuff. Ben recently attended a training about this and I read an article he brought home or from a journal or something. What I read mentioned that Anesthesiologists are not more addicted to drugs than other physicians. Nice to know. I got from it that when physicians in general get addicted, it's to the things they administer frequently, and anesthesiologists administer some potent stuff. Good to be on guard! Thanks.