Over the past few years, I have represented about a dozen anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists and nurse anesthetist students who were disciplined for opiate use. When I recently read an article in the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists from April, 2012, titled Opiate Abuse Among Nurse Anesthetists and Anesthesiologists, it reinforced my findings and experience with my clients. The article noted that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that the overall rate for substance abuse in the general population has consistently remained at 8% since 2002; however, it is estimated that anesthesiologists are five times more likely to abuse opiates than the general public. The article cited several studies, one of which concluded that Fentanyl was the most commonly abused controlled substance among faculty in academic anesthesiologist programs. In my own practice, every one of the dozen or so clients of mine in the anesthesiology field abused Fentanyl. The article also cited a recent study which indicated that Propanol abuse has increased in the past years. The article noted that once abuse of potent opiates begins, tolerance and dependence can develop quickly, and abuse can rapidly escalate out of control to the point of discovery, which typically amounts to one to one and a half years. In my own practice, I have noted that usage is often discovered through random testing, overdose which results in an emergency room visit, or discovery of drug use while at work by an employer.
If you are a healthcare professional accused of abusing and/or diverting opioid pain medication, contact me before you make any admissions or statements to your employer or an investigator for the state. In addition to defending your interest, we can assist you with recommendations for treatment.