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Drug Abuse By Young Anesthesiologists Is Rare But Sometimes Deadly

Last Updated: December 03, 2013.

Study finds rates approached 1 percent during doctors' training program.

TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Slightly less than 1 percent of U.S. anesthesiology residents who began their training between 1975 and 2009 had a substance abuse disorder during their residency, a new study reveals.

Researchers examined data gathered from nearly 45,000 anesthesiology residents during that time and found that the overall rate of substance abuse during the study period was 0.86 percent. High rates in the earlier years were followed by lower rates in 1996 to 2002, but the highest rates have occurred since 2003.

The most common types of substances abused by anesthesiology residents were powerful narcotic painkillers, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and anesthetics/hypnotics, according to the study in the Dec. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

During the study period, 28 anesthesiology residents died due to substance abuse. Among others involved with substance abuse, 43 percent had at least one relapse over the next 30 years and 11 percent died due to substance use disorder. Rates of relapse and death did not depend on the type of substance, the researchers noted in a journal news release.

The authors believe this is the first such comprehensive study for any in-training physician group, "showing that the incidence [of substance use disorder] has increased over the study period and that relapse rates are not improving," wrote Dr. David Warner, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues.

"Despite the considerable attention paid to this issue, there is no evidence that the incidence and outcomes of [substance use disorder] among these physicians are improving over time," they added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about substance abuse.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Dec. 3, 2013

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