September is National Recovery Month, a good time to reflect that the cumulative death toll of our ongoing opioid epidemic is approaching one million. I wrote The Case for Caution When Prescribing Benzodiazepines (Psychiatric Times, 9/3/21) to encourage psychiatrists to be especially careful when prescribing medications that depress a person’s central nervous system. Last week I was asked, “Now that your career focuses on coaching health professionals, why are you bothering to write about addiction?” Here’s why:
In these days of societal upheaval and pandemic-related stress, misuse of alcohol, cannabis, and psychoactive medications is rampant. This applies to the general public, as well as to many doctors, nurses and other professionals. By maintaining a heightened awareness of substance misuse, we have the potential to help many, many people.
Much has been written about the mounting toll of burnout on physicians and other front-line clinicians. We know that some doctors who are running out of gas may choose to avoid difficult patient conversations by writing prescriptions for controlled substances; this enables them to end an appointment quickly and move on to the next patient. And many medical leaders have not been trained to effectively address the aberrant prescriptive practices of some of their team members.
Promoting the recovery of afflicted individuals and their families remains a rewarding and essential component of my purpose as a physician; that’s why I integrate this work with other professional activities when circumstances suggest that doing so may be helpful. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about substance misuse, addiction, or recovery.