Opiate addiction is something that can sneak up on good people who might not realize they are becoming dependent on painkillers. People from all walks of life are prescribed an opiate or opioid narcotic for pain management following for injuries and chronic conditions. Like other addictions, an opiate use can turn into abuse and reliance on the drugs. Many people who suffer from opiate abuse and addiction report that they did not think they had a problem and would go for days without using opiates, assuming they were able to stop at any time.
Healthcare professionals may have a unique risk of opiate abuse and addiction
Physicians and healthcare professionals may be particularly likely to manage their own use of opiate narcotics and one day realize they are on the way to or are already hooked. For many, the opiates seem to sneak up on them without the user noticing anything because the neurotransmitters in the brain and the systems affected by opiate drugs are altered; the user is not thinking normally.
The healthcare industry can be notably stressful and physicians and professionals must be disciplined and resilient to that which might be too difficult for others to manage daily. Knowing you may be a tough doctor or nurse might give you the illusion that you may be in a better position to get the use of opiates under control, even though you might not be able to manage the addiction on your own.
The causes of opiate addiction are variable among several factors, some of which might not be within the control of the individual experiencing addiction.[i]
- Genetic: Some of us are pre-disposed to addiction through our genetic makeup. When immediate family members and close relatives have addictions, those close in relation are often more likely to also suffer from abuse and addiction. This is not always the case, however and within a family some may “have the gene” while others do not.
- Biological: Some of us naturally lack the endorphins necessary to trigger the right responses in our brains and central nervous systems, impacting our physiology. When introduced to our systems, certain people respond very well to opioids to remedy an underlying neurotransmitter deficit.
- Environmental: What we experience as children can significantly influence our likelihood of certain behaviors as adults. The children who grow up with substance abuse and addiction are more likely to use substances and are more prone to addiction themselves.
- Psychological: In the event one may be suffering from a mental illness or disorder, one may not be thinking clearly when using addictive narcotics to self-medicate other symptoms. There is a common correlation between mental health and propensity for addiction.
Opiate abuse and addiction can be cured and underlying causes and symptoms can be addressed.
Licensed professionals with their livelihood on the line may be more likely to cover up the use, abuse or addiction to opiates. The last thing any physician or nurse wants is to be questioned as to their fitness to practice. Individuals with addiction might be under the effects of narcotics to the extent that they are not making otherwise clear decisions, while some others may be better able to catch and cure a problem.
Too often people fear being looked at like a failure or a weak person. It is important to realize that opiate abuse and addiction is a temporary illness which may not have been avoidable based on causes that are not the healthcare professionals’ fault.
Being proactive with opiate abuse and addiction issues can save a healthcare professional’s career.
In many cases there are options for healthcare professionals to self-report a struggle with abuse or addiction. Being the first to notify your professional licensing and regulatory body, and with representation by a professional licensing attorney, physicians and nurses are likely to experience better results and a reduction in the risk of discipline or adverse action taken against them.
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[i] Mount Regis Center website, Opiate Abuse & Addiction Effects, Signs & Symptoms.