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Original Article
Feb 2012

Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorders Among American Surgeons

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: American College of Surgeons, Chicago, Illinois (Drs Oreskovich, Kaups, Balch, and Hanks); Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle (Drs Oreskovich and Meredith), and Washington Physicians Health Program (Dr Meredith and Ms Buhl), Seattle; Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, Fresno (Dr Kaups); Department of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland (Dr Balch); University of Virginia, Charlottesville (Dr Hanks); and Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota (Mr Satele and Drs Sloan, Dyrbye, and Shanafelt).

Arch Surg. 2012;147(2):168-174. doi:10.1001/archsurg.2011.1481

Objectives To determine the point prevalence of alcohol abuse and dependence among practicing surgeons.

Design Cross-sectional study with data gathered through a 2010 survey.

Setting The United States of America.

Participants Members of the American College of Surgeons.

Main Outcome Measures Alcohol abuse and dependence.

Results Of 25 073 surgeons sampled, 7197 (28.7%) completed the survey. Of these, 1112 (15.4%) had a score on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, version C, consistent with alcohol abuse or dependence. The point prevalence for alcohol abuse or dependence for male surgeons was 13.9% and for female surgeons was 25.6%. Surgeons reporting a major medical error in the previous 3 months were more likely to have alcohol abuse or dependence (odds ratio, 1.45; P < .001). Surgeons who were burned out (odds ratio, 1.25; P = .01) and depressed (odds ratio, 1.48; P < .001) were more likely to have alcohol abuse or dependence. The emotional exhaustion and depersonalization domains of burnout were strongly associated with alcohol abuse or dependence. Male sex, having children, and working for the Department of Veterans Affairs were associated with a lower likelihood of alcohol abuse or dependence.

Conclusions Alcohol abuse and dependence is a significant problem in US surgeons. Organizational approaches for the early identification of problematic alcohol consumption followed by intervention and treatment where indicated should be strongly supported.