Anesthesiology Residents at High Risk Of Substance Use Disorder

Due to their young age and easy access to prescription drugs, anesthesiology residents face a high risk of substance abuse

According to a study conducted by Dr. David O. Warner from the Mayo Clinic and his research team, anesthesiology residents are at high risk of developing a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). SUD can lead to various medical concerns such as physical health complications or psychiatric disorders. Anesthesiology residents are at an increased risk since they have easy access to potent drugs such as opioids that can be administered intravenously.

“To our knowledge, this report provides the first comprehensive description of the epidemiology and outcomes of SUD for any in-training physician specialty group, showing that the incidence of SUD has increased over the study period and that relapse rates are not improving,” the researchers reported. “Despite the considerable attention paid to this issue, there is no evidence that the incidence and outcomes of SUD among these physicians are improving over time.”

Dr. Warner and his research team combed through the records of 44,612 physicians registered in anesthesiology residency-training programs in the United States from July 1, 1975 to July 1, 2009. They looked for evidence indicating incidences of substance abuse among the residents and the outcomes. Participants of the study were asked to report any incidences of substance abuse up until their residency training ended and any relapse up until Dec. 31, 2010.

Of the respondents, 384 physicians or 0.86 percent admitted to SUD during anesthesiology training. Twenty-eight physicians or 7.3 percent died during training because of substance abuse. Within 30 years of their first episode during training, 43 percent of the participants had at least one relapse. The substances the residents reported using included alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, IV opioids, oral opioids and anesthetics.


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