Dr. Steve Adelman, founder of MedPEP and director of the physician health program in Massachusetts, has a frank discussion with Marie and Les about physicians’ use of addictive substances like alcohol and marijuana. In this era of stress, burnout, and medical “battle fatigue,” doctors may be especially susceptible to numbing themselves with substances that have the potential to impede their performance. Steve’s perspective is that physicians are safety-sensitive professionals who are responsible for the health of the public. Consequently, they have an ethical obligation to stay above reproach by avoiding problematic use of psychoactive substances. Physicians with a history of problematic substance use should abstain; others should consider practices like “clean margin drinking,” a minimalistic approach that is fleshed out with specifics. Marie acknowledges that sometimes physicians cross the line in the name of celebration or stress relief. Steve points out that physicians are at risk because they have easy access to controlled substances and may also resist seeking professional help despite needing it. Marie and Steve discuss a specific case involving a patient whose therapist appeared impaired during a psychotherapy session. A guiding principle is that the safety of the public should never be compromised. Les asks Steve to comment on the use of marijuana by physicians. Steve focuses on the downside, advising licensed health professionals to avoid marijuana altogether. He links this MedPEP episode to earlier podcasts by suggesting that health professionals should avoid misusing substances; instead, we should focus on improving our self-care with diet, exercise, meditation, and better work/life balance, all of which may counter personal and professional burnout, and preserve our careers.
None of the individuals in a position to control the content of this CME activity, and/or their spouse/partner, have any relevant financial relationships with commercial interests to disclose.