Anaesthetic drug addiction: a problem among medical practitioners

Doctors say that they are witnessing a rise in the number of doctors who themselves are coming to them complaining about their addiction to anaesthetic drugs. Being from the medical field, it is easier for them to acquire anaesthetic drugs, say experts

Anaesthetic drug addiction: a problem among medical practitioners

What would you do if someone in your family is addicted to a drug? Most probably, you would opt to visit a doctor for de-addiction. In a surprising turn of events, doctors across Maharashtra say that they are seeing a rise in the number of doctors complaining about their addiction to anaesthetic drugs.

About six months ago, a city surgeon came to Masina hospital with a problem of depression and anaesthetic drug addiction. Being from the medical field, it is easier for them to acquire anaesthetic drugs, say experts.

“Doctors have a very stressful job. Firstly, these drugs are available and accessible to them. And secondly, doctors feel very shy to come forward and talk about any of their addictions. This doctor, too, had come in with severe addiction to anaesthetic drugs and had to undergo de-addiction,” said Dr Priyanka Mahajan, Psychiatrist at Masina Hospital.

The doctor was admitted at Masina hospital and had to undergo a complete de-addiction programme. This isn’t an isolation case. While My Medical Mantra tried contacting psychiatrists across the state, such cases seem to be quite rampant in the medical fraternity.

“In this year itself, I have seen about two patients, who are doctors, with the addiction of anaesthetic drugs. The biggest problem in the medical field is excessive stress and minimum quality time with the family,” said Dr Rohan Jahagirdar, Psychiatrist at Chaitanya Rehabilitation, Pune.

“Coincidentally, both of my patients were newcomers in the field with about 5 to 7 years of experience. As newcomers, a lot of times, medical professionals feel their goals are unmet which adds up to stress. Furthermore it is very difficult for the doctors, even after de-addiction, as they keep seeing these drugs almost every day,” added Dr Jahagirdar.

This problem isn’t a new one; however, it seems to have grown more acutely with time. “When it comes to the accessibility of drugs, they’re better exposed to these drugs than others because they know their illnesses and they also know to hide it, that is where the risk lies,” said Dr Jalpa Bhuta, Consultant Psychiatrist at Global Hospital.

Considering the pervasive nature of this issue, it is a sensitive topic to be discussed even among the fraternity, say doctors. “Physicians and doctors in general become anaesthetic abusers at the same rate as the general patients. They are often reluctant to seek medical advice due to societal pressure and also due to the fear of losing their medical licenses,” added Dr Bhuta.

Lifestyle modification is the key to this problem. “For those doctors who came to me for de-addiction, I suggested certain lifestyle modifications to help cure the problem,” said Dr Jahagirdar.

But, some doctors took a step ahead asking for expert intervention for this problem, “As a medical expert, I would like to look out for ways to lighten up the burden of existing doctors who are seeking advice on this matter. I think that if people misuse drugs, it can be very addictive, especially when combined with alcohol. With time and experiences of witnessing my fellow medical practitioners who have been addicted to it and this has led to their deaths, I would like to urge the government to regulate strict laws and active intervention in order to avoid any loss of life,” said Dr Bhuta.