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Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2008 Jan 29;3:3. doi: 10.1186/1747-597X-3-3.

Risk factors for alcohol and other drug use by healthcare professionals.

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  • 1Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, Box G-121S-4, Providence, RI 02908, USA.



Given the increasingly stressful environment due to manpower shortages in the healthcare system in general, substance induced impairment among some healthcare professions is anticipated to grow. Though recent studies suggest that the prevalence of substance abuse is no higher in healthcare professionals (HPs) than the general population, given the responsibility to the public, any impairment could place the public at increased risk for errors. Few studies have ever reported predictors or risk factors for alcohol and other drug use (AOD) across a sample of HPs.


The study used a cross-sectional, descriptive self-report survey in a small northeastern state. A 7-page survey was mailed to a stratified random sample of 697 dentists, nurses, pharmacists and physicians registered in a northeastern state. The main outcome measures were demographic characteristics, lifetime, past year and past month prevalence of AOD use, the frequency of use, drug related dysfunctions, drug misuse and abuse potential. Six contacts during the summer of 2002 resulted in a 68.7% response rate (479/697).


Risk factors contributing to any reported past year AOD use, as well as significant (defined as the amount of AOD use by the top 25% of respondents) past year AOD use by HPs were examined using logistic regression. Risk factors of any self-reported past year AOD use included moderate or more frequency of alcohol use, being in situations when offered AODs, feeling immune to the addictive effects of drugs (pharmaceutical invincibility) and socializing with substance abusers. Risk factors of significant past year AOD use were HPs with younger licensees, a moderate pattern of alcohol use and not socializing with substance abusers.


National and state organizations need to develop policies that focus on prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of alcohol and other drug-using healthcare professionals. The results of this study may help to delineate the characteristics of HPs abusing drugs, leading to the development of more effective policies designed to protect the public, and move toward more tailored and effective intervention strategies for HPs.

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