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Alcohol Dependence Among Surgeons a 'Significant Problem'

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, February 23, 2012

Alcohol abuse is a "significant problem" for surgeons in the United States, with more than 15% of respondents in a nationwide survey signaling that they may have dependency issues, the American College of Surgeons reports.

The survey in the February issue of Archives of Surgery found that the rate of alcohol use disorders among the 7,197 responding surgeons is slightly higher than that of the general U.S. population.

For surgeons reporting dependency issues, the survey found there was a "strong association" with problems in personal and professional relationships that included burnout, depression, and medical errors. In fact, the study found that nearly 78% of surgeons reporting a medical error in the previous three months also had issues with alcohol abuse or dependence.

"Our goal is not to scare the public. That is the last thing we want to do. But we also want to say that people are paying a really high price," says Krista L. Kaups, MD, a coauthor of the survey, Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorders Among American Surgeons.

The study recommends that healthcare organizations and professional associations, including the American College of Surgeons, develop early warning and intervention programs that identify problem drinkers and provide treatment and therapy options. "These findings should also decrease the shame and stigma associated with alcohol abuse or dependence and encourage surgeons to pursue treatment and rehabilitation to promote patient safety and personal well-being," the study said.

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