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Doctors, nurses falling victim to drug abuse

American Nurses Association estimates 6-8 percent of nurses misuse drugs or alcohol

DETROIT – No one is immune to drug addiction, including doctors and nurses.

The American Nurses Association estimates 6 to 8 percent of nurses misuse drugs or alcohol to an extent that it impairs their performance at work.

"It was my first though in the morning: Did I have enough to get through the day?" said registered nurse Michele Markant.

Markant worked as a research coordinator on a major medical study. For two years, she lived a secret life addicted to painkillers which were originally prescribed for a shoulder injury.

"Nobody had any idea what I was doing," she said. "I had been writing and calling in my own prescriptions for opiates for about two years."

Emergency room nurses are 3 and 1/2 times more likely to abuse drugs than general practice nurses. Oncology nurses are two times more likely to binge drink.

Markant was arrested. She lost her job and eventually her six kids.

"It was one of the hardest days of my life," she said.

She spent 100 days in a rehabilitation program.

"Treatment, contrary to what most people think, isn't just about not doing drugs," said Dr. Scott Teitelbaum, M.D., an addiction medicine expert at the Florida Recovery Center. "It's to help them develop a design for living, if you will, to help with the difficulties that we know life gives us all."

Markant has been off opiates for two years. She is back to being a mother and hopes to return to nursing.

"My life is tremendously better than it was before," she said.

Her strong will helped her kick the habit.

One study estimates 12 percent of doctors are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Emergency medicine and anesthesiology are the highest risk specialties among health professionals.


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