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Am J Addict. 2013 Nov-Dec;22(6):605-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2013.12017.x. Epub 2013 Apr 5.

Patterns of substance use initiation among healthcare professionals in recovery.

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University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; Professionals Resource Network, Inc., Fernandina Beach, Florida.



Substance-related impairment among healthcare professionals has significant public health implications, but little is known regarding factors associated with substance use initiation in this group.


In this study, 105 healthcare professionals (80% male), who ranged in age from 24 to 68 years (M = 47.1 years, SD = 10.2) completed a self-report questionnaire assessing age at first use, education level at first use, means of access to substances upon first use, order of substance use initiation, and reasons for first and continued substance use. Physicians (51%), pharmacists (19.2%), dentists (11.5%), physician assistants (5.8%), and various other allied health professionals (12.7%) participated.


Results demonstrated that 73.2% of the professionals used tobacco, 90.4% used alcohol, and 64.4% used other drugs before beginning professional school. Reasons for first use of substances paralleled those seen in the general public (e.g., curiosity, peer influence, availability), and differed from reasons for continued substance use (e.g., getting high, addiction, stress management).


Given that onset of substance use among health professionals appears to mirror that seen in the general population, their unique treatment success rates likely cannot be solely attributed to later age-of-onset of their substance use disorder. Delaying experimentation with addictive substances and improving efforts at early identification of problematic use are crucial to preventing the development of substance use disorders among healthcare professionals, as well as the public as a whole.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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