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August 19, 1983

Drug Abuse in Anesthesia Training ProgramsA Survey: 1970 Through 1980

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Anesthesiology, University of California, San Diego Medical Center.

JAMA. 1983;250(7):922-925. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340070028021

Experience at our institution with drug dependence among anesthesia residents, coupled with a lack of published data, prompted us to survey US anesthesia training programs. Two hundred eighty-nine programs were surveyed, 247 (85.5%) responded, and 184 (74%) of these programs had at least one suspected incident of drug dependence to report. Three hundred thirty-four confirmed persons were reported, including a substantial number of instructors. Meperidine and fentanyl were the most frequently mentioned drugs. Behavior changes were frequently noted by staff personnel, and in general such changes led directly to detection. After confirmation of abuse, the majority of impaired anesthetists were referred for psychiatric care, with few in need of actual detoxification. Detailed follow-up was available for about 40% of the total; 71 persons were offered a return to their original place of employment, while 30 persons died of drug overdose. Chemical impairment may be more common than usually thought in anesthesia, perhaps in part because of drug availability.

(JAMA 1983;250:922-925)