Features  |   June 2020
Returning to the Practice of Anesthesiology After Treatment for a Substance Use Disorder
Author Affiliations
  • Michael G. Fitzsimons, MD
    Committee on Physician Well-Being
Article Information
Cardiovascular Anesthesia / Education / CPD / Pain Medicine / Features / Opioid
Features   |   June 2020
Returning to the Practice of Anesthesiology After Treatment for a Substance Use Disorder
ASA Monitor 6 2020, Vol.84, 22-23.
ASA Monitor 6 2020, Vol.84, 22-23.
Anesthesiologists are not immune to the diseases of substance use disorders (SUD). Studies have shown that 1-2% of practicing anesthesiologists and residents in training will develop SUDs. The number is far higher if alcohol is included. Studies have also shown that anesthesiologists will sustain recovery for at least five years at the same rate as other physicians when appropriately treated.1  It is subject to debate whether practicing physicians or residents with SUD should return to anesthesiology or retrain in another specialty where exposure to substances is less likely.2 -4  Individuals who understand their disease, have received appropriate treatment, and have demonstrated commitment to lifelong recovery can be considered for reentry into the practice of anesthesiology on a case-by-case basis. If the decision is made to allow reentry into clinical anesthesia care, it is important to follow an organized plan that involves the state Physician’s Health Program (PHP) or other service coordinating recovery, hospital physician’s health status committee, departmental leadership and the physician-patient. The input of general counsel is critical.
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