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Pass the Knife and the Cocktail? 15% of Doctors Report Alcohol Abuse

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Surgery is a very delicate process and you obviously want a very skilled and focused surgeon when going under the knife. Needless to say, you would probably feel more than a little worried if you knew your surgeon had been drinking before performing your surgery. However, a recent survey revealed that 15% of U.S. surgeons report alcohol use disorders such as alcohol use and dependence.


The online, anonymous poll also found that alcohol abuse was more prevalent among female surgeons with 26% reporting an alcohol problem and 14% of male surgeons reporting a problem. Those figures exceed the percentage of the general population reporting an alcohol abuse problem, which ranges between 8 and 12%. However, Dr. Michael Oreskovich, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle says that the number of patients harmed as a result of an impaired surgeon is very low–something like one in 10,000. But he does admit that the study points to an important point: why surgeons don't undergo the same random drug screenings that other safety-sensitive professionals have to take.

The survey researchers hoped that their findings will illuminate the fact that surgeons are not immune to the same problems that other people face and that this will take away some of the stigmatizing nature of the problem, leading surgeons to seek help before it's too late.