Last fall, I sat in a group therapy room listening as a new patient introduced himself and timidly described his recent daily routine. He explained that after work each evening, he stopped at a convenience store to purchase alcohol, then sat in the parking lot, drinking in his car so he could cope with going home to his family. The patients sitting around the circle all nodded in understanding. Many offered words of encouragement, and several shared similar experiences. Like this patient, all members of the therapy group were physicians, and all had recently come to an addiction treatment center after trying unsuccessfully to manage on their own. Development of a substance use disorder is fairly common among physicians,1 yet the issue remains inadequately addressed. A “conspiracy of silence” among physicians keeps those suffering from addiction hidden, allowing their disease to worsen. It also inhibits physicians in recovery from sharing their success experiences, which otherwise could encourage those who are struggling to seek help.
Merlo LJ. Healing Physicians. JAMA. 2016;316(23):2489–2490. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.10339
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