Nontherapeutic opiate addiction in health professionals: a new form of impairment

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1984;10(1):1-22. doi: 10.3109/00952998409002652.


Case studies describe a new type of addicted health professional whose opiate abuse originated recreationally . Historically, health professionals have had high rates of opiate addiction, usually viewed as an occupational hazard stemming from access and from self-treatment for pain or stresses of the medical profession. Partly because addiction in health professionals was almost always therapeutic (iatrogenic) or quasi-therapeutic (stress-related), it affected them less severely than it affected heroin addicts, whose drug abuse usually began recreationally . Now, however, because recreational drug abuse has become commonplace at American colleges since the mid-1960s, a majority of young health professionals have histories of abusing drugs and some are becoming non-therapeutically addicted. Six case studies describe this new addict type, showing how the subjects went from heavy soft drug use to opiate addiction, experienced severe longterm effects, were treated by society, and responded to treatment.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Workforce*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Physician Impairment
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Psychological / complications