Substance Abuse Health Programs Benefit Surgeons

Recovery, completion, and extension of monitoring period similar for surgeons, non-surgeons

FRIDAY, Nov. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Surgeons being monitored for diagnosed substance use disorders have similar outcomes to their non-surgeon counterparts, according to a study published in the November issue of the Archives of Surgery.

Amanda Buhl, M.P.H., from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues investigated the differences in rates of relapse (continued drug and alcohol misuse), monitoring contract completion, and return to medical practice at five years, between surgeons and non-surgeons, admitted for substance use disorders to one of 16 U.S. state physician programs between 1995 and 2001. Data for 144 surgeons and 636 non-surgeons were retrospectively reviewed.

The investigators found that surgeons were significantly more likely to enroll in a health program for alcohol-related problems, and less likely to enroll because of opioid use than non-surgeons (odds ratio, 1.9 and 0.5, respectively). Surgeons and non-surgeons had a similar likelihood of a positive drug test result, completion or failure to complete the monitoring contract, or extending the period of monitoring beyond the five years specified in their agreements. At the conclusion of the monitoring period, fewer surgeons were licensed and practicing medicine than their non-surgeon counterparts, but the difference was not statistically significant.

"Surgeons in this study had positive outcomes similar to those of non-surgeons," the authors write. "Further research is necessary to conclude whether surgeons are less likely than their non-surgeon peers to successfully return to medical practice following chemical dependency treatment."

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