The Secret Lives of Drug Addiction Among Professionals

The Secret Lives of Drug Addiction Among Professionals

By In Addiction Recovery, Opioid Addiction
Posted November 21, 2015

It’s easy to sweep drug addiction out of our minds, either feeling judgmental or indifferent about the stereotypical addict. We might imagine them as homeless…or at least wayward, and probably with a checkered employment history at a dead-end job, if they are employed at all.
Some of us kind of expect drugs and alcohol to run hand-in-hand with certain employment choices, don’t we?

If we knew the real statistics, we may all be surprised.

Drug Addiction Among Professionals

As a business owner and someone who was swallowed up by addiction later in life, I spend a good amount of time reading about, and researching drug addiction in professional circles. Maybe I’m just curious, or maybe now that I’m living in long term recovery, I really wonder how many are out there? Slowly dying. Living panicked lives, full of lies and deception, quick decisions and regrets.

Addiction and Health Care Workers

I wondered how many health care workers looked longingly at the syringe of pain medication as they administered it to their patient….and then I started to wonder how easy it would be to only give the patient half of the syringe, and then take the rest for themselves.

Ugly, crazy thought…right? Surely no one would do that.

Except that’s not true. My research found that 10-14% of physicians and nurses are struggling with drug addiction —specifically opiates. In the medical world, three specialists account for a substantially higher proportion of addiction than others: emergency room specialists, anesthesiologists, and psychiatrists.

Dr. Jeffrey Silverstein, a New York based anesthesiologist, has written extensively on the topic of drug addiction in his field, pointing out that it’s nearly impossible to get actual numbers, but that it is highly likely that the drug use problem in his direct field is only getting worse.

Addiction and Legal Professionals

One click over to the American Bar Association’s website and you’ll find countless articles written for law students as well as attorneys. Titles like, Reviving Your Legal Career in the Wake of AddictionWhat to Expect in Addiction Treatment, and Addiction and Attorneys: Confronting the Denial are available to assist the growing number of attorneys struggling with addiction. Studies suggest that lawyers abuse substances at a higher rate than the general population.

Addiction and Law Enforcement

Reading a blog post from Law Enforcement Today written by a police officer with over two decades of service to his community, he describes himself with these words, “I spent 20 years in law enforcement with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Kirkland (Washington) Police Department.  I served in many different capacities; field training officer, gang officer, D.A.R.E. instructor, school resource officer, homicide detective and my final assignment… drug addict.”

He goes on to write, “I am all-too-familiar with substance abuse and drug addiction within the law enforcement community. We think addiction in our world exists only among those people we deal with and arrest every day on the street. However, it has been estimated through multiple studies that abuse and addiction among law enforcement officers runs somewhere between 20-25%.”

This figure is twice the national average of the general population.

And there’s more…obviously. I could go on and list college professors, day care workers, Sunday school teachers, pastors, government officials, firefighters, and more.

The point is not whether or not drug addiction crosses all social and economic lines. It clearly does. The point here is that we have a national epidemic, a health care issue, and a stigma that still keeps professionals hiding in the shadows, afraid to get help, afraid to be exposed.

That’s a horrifying way to live and no one should have to hide. Personally, I was a Community Chaplain, a business owner, head of my household, a community volunteer, active in my church…and desperately wishing I could break free from the addiction that was slowly sucking the life out of me. I had zero peace, lived in overwhelming fear of being found out, and thought that if I was exposed, I would lose everything…when the opposite was actually the truth.

One of the people who helped me to see that hiding was not the answer was the station manager for the Christian radio station in my town. He openly talked about his years in sobriety and when I called him to pick his brain he described his “former self” as a liar and a fraud. If he, a respected person in our community, could be so open and vulnerable…why couldn’t I?

Eventually, I took his lead, received the help I needed from The Shores Treatment and Recovery, and am now active in the recovery community and very open about my recovery and sobriety. I tell my story to just about anyone who will listen, without reservation. That’s not the case for many of the professionals around me who are still sick and struggling.

What Has to Happen?

I believe as each of us, individually, begins to educate ourselves about the reality of drug and alcohol addiction in our direct community…offering hope and not judgement, realizing that drug addiction can (and does) affect anyone…from every walk of life, every demographic, and every education level, we will be much closer to burying the stigma.

We should not be horrified when we hear of school teachers or nurses who are struggling with addiction. Whether we want to see it or not, this is where we are. The crisis is real. The disease of addiction has a Solution…and as educated individuals ourselves, we can learn to offer help, just as we would to anyone in crisis, instead of judgement.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, get help now. The caring staff at The Shores Treatment and Recovery is here to help.

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