Dr Junkie. The Doctor Addict in Bulgakov's Morphine: What are the Lessons for Contemporary Medical Practice?

J Med Humanit. 2015 Dec;36(4):359-68. doi: 10.1007/s10912-013-9259-z.


Historical, cultural and professional factors have contributed to stigma and secrecy regarding addiction in the medical profession and there are calls to improve education in this area. This paper argues that physician-penned literature plays an important role in raising awareness of substance misuse in the medical profession. Bulgakov's short story Morphine documents the decline of Dr Polyakov and illustrates a number of salient professional issues such as self-medication, abuse of authority and risks to patients. Physician-penned literature such as Morphine is of value in medical education as it offers a route into sensitive topics and an authoritative and insider perspective that is attractive to students and physicians alike.

Keywords: Addiction; Medical education; Opiates; Physicians; Professionalism.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humanities
  • Humans
  • Morphine Dependence*
  • Narration
  • Physician Impairment*
  • United States