It's a New Day for Doctors with Addictions

By Childress, Karen | Medical Economics, June 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

It's a New Day for Doctors with Addictions

Childress, Karen, Medical Economics


In the not-too- distant past, physicians who were addicted to alcohol or drugs tended to hide in the shadows for years- sometimes for decades- before reaching out for help, getting into recovery, and putting their lives and careers back on track. Few admitted openly to having a problem until they were forced to either seek treatment or be faced with the very real possibility of losing hospital privileges and their medical licenses. Today, thanks in part to supportive systems that allow physicians to step forward and ask for help without fearing that doing so will be a career-ender, doctors who struggle with alcohol and drugs are finding ways out of the darkness of addiction.

Family physician Harry Haroutunian, MD, tried for years to manage his alcohol addiction on his own or by using 12-step programs, so-called "half measures." Having begun drinking in medical school as a way to cope with the rigors and demands of being a student, on finishing training, he practiced family medicine in a remote location with little peer oversight Working long hours to meet the needs of many patients resulted in seeking solace during his rare off hours through alcohol.

"I knew I had a problem, but I wasted time starting and stopping and getting improper treatment The drinking just resurfaced, again and again," Haroutunian says.

In his mid-50s, Haroutunian finally got the help he needed to get sober and stay sober. "I received a 3- day, full clinical diagnostic evaluation, followed by 90 days in a residential treatment program with other physicians," he says. "I then enrolled in my [state] physician health program, and [it was] extraordinarily helpful. They guided me through those first few years [of sobriety]."

Once back at work, Haroutunian soon received inquiries from other physicians who wanted to know about recovery. "I fully understand that it is a disease. My dad died from this disease, plus one brother and a couple of uncles," he says. "It's not anything to be ashamed of, and until we accept the totality of the disease and understand that there is hope, we remain cloaked in a shroud of denial. People hide out, go without treatment, and die for fear of retribution."

Today, Haroutunian is physician director of the Licensed Health Professionals Program at the acclaimed Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, where he helps doctors and other licensed professionals reclaim their lives and careers by achieving sobriety.


It's estimated that 10% to 12% of the general population suffers from an addiction of one sort or another. Haroutunian says these numbers are about the same among physicians. What makes doctors different when it comes to addiction is that they tend to delay seeking help for longer than nonphysicians (in part because they are sometimes "protected") and that they have easy access to prescription drugs.

Doctors at any stage in their careers can find themselves facing an addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal street drugs, gambling, sex, or even shopping. But by and large, alcohol and prescription drugs are the substances of choice among healthcare professionals, and they may be at higher-than-average risk at a couple of career points in particular.

Charlene Dewey, MD, MEd, FACP, is an internist and co-director of the Center for Professional Health at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. She says that residency and midcareer are two points in time during which physicians should especially be aware of their risk for addiction.

"Residency is hard- mentally, physically, and emotionally. Suddenly, doctors have access to drugs that they didn't have access to before, and use goes up as they look for ways of coping," she says. Instead of making an appointment with a primary care physician, residents are apt to convince a colleague to give them a prescription for "a few [alprazolam] to get me through," when what they really need is to see an objective physician for the issues they struggle with. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

It's a New Day for Doctors with Addictions


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.