Winter 2014 – Substance Use Among Physicians and Medical Students

Substance Use Among Physicians and Medical Students.
Catalina I. Dumitrascu1*, Philip Z. Mannes2, Lena J. Gamble3, Jeffrey A. Selzer4
Author Affiliations:
1Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, NE, USA.
2Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA.
3National Institutes of Health, Department of Perioperative Medicine, Bethesda, MD, USA.
4Committee for Physician Health, Albany, NY, USA.

Full Text Article PDF
Corresponding author: Catalina I. Dumitrascu, BS, MS; catalinadumitrascu[at]

Key Words: Substance-related disorders; Alcohol abuse; Physician Health Programs.
Background: Physicians and medical students whose substance use causes impairment pose a risk to both themselves and their patients. Drug abuse is a documented problem in physicians, however few studies have investigated the rates of drug abuse in medical students. While treatment plans may be tailored for both students and attending physicians, there is often a reluctance to refer one’s self or a colleague due to a variety of reasons related to fear of repercussions, belief the problem has already been addressed, failure to recognize, or ignorance. This review provides a brief background on common signs and symptoms of potential abuse and resources available to doctors in training at various stages of their career, along with providing a clear picture of the literature as it pertains to physician and medical student substance abuse.
Methods: Extensive search of the literature utilized physical and electronic resources available at the National Institutes of Health Library and the National Library of Medicine with search results limited to the topics of physician or medical student substance use, substance abuse, impairment, and treatment.
Results: Sparse recent data regarding physician and medical student substance abuse are available. Studies completed two decades ago demonstrate that drug abuse was a significant problem for doctors and medical students at that time.
Conclusion: Due to outdated, and/or incomplete data on substance abuse in physicians and especially medical students, it is difficult to report the current extent of substance abuse in these groups. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize substance abuse in these populations and promote referral to substance abuse programs. Early rehabilitation and treatment improves both career and patient outcomes. This study highly suggests the need for up to date information regarding substance abuse in the medical community so that appropriate resources can be developed and effectively utilized.

Published: January 1, 2014
Senior Editor: Kevin C. Patterson
Junior Editor: Caela Hesano
DOI: Pending
Dumitrascu CI, Mannes PZ, Gamble LJ, Selzer JA. Substance Use Among Physicians and Medical Students. Medical Student Research Journal. 2014;3(Winter):26-35.
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Kevin Patterson

Executive Editor
Kevin Charles Patterson is a fourth year medical student at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. He is in his eighth year at MSU after graduating with a B.S. in Human Biology and a B.S. in Microbiology, both in 2010. He is considering a career in internal medicine with a combined scientist training program in residency; after residency, his plans include the possibility of a fellowship and the ultimate goal of practicing academic medicine. Editor Note (2013-14): Kevin graduated, matched, and is a resident in Internal Medicine at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.