The prevalence of substance use disorders in American physicians

Michael R. Oreskovich, Tait Shanafelt, Lotte N. Dyrbye, Litjen Tan, Wayne Sotile, Daniel Satele, Colin P. West, Jeff Sloan, Sonja Boone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Background There have been few studies on the prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDS) in the physician population at large nor have any studies compared the prevalence of SUDS in American physicians by specialty. Methods We conducted a national study of SUDS in a large sample of U.S. physicians from all specialty disciplines using the AMA Physician Masterfile. Substance Use Disorders (SUDS) were measured using validated instruments. Results Of the 27,276 physicians who received an invitation to participate, 7,288 (26.7%) completed surveys. 12.9% of male physicians and 21.4% of female physicians met diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence. Abuse of prescription drugs and use of illicit drugs was rare. Factors independently associated with alcohol abuse or dependence were age (OR = .985; p < .0001), hours worked (OR = .994; p = .0094), male gender (OR = .597; p < .0001), being married (OR 1.296; p = .0424) or partnered (OR 1.989; p = .0003), having children (OR.745; p = .0049), and being in any specialty other than internal medicine (OR 1.757; p = .0060). Specialty choice was strongly associated with alcohol abuse or dependence (p = .0011). Alcohol abuse or dependence was associated with burnout (p < .0001), depression (p < .0001), suicidal ideation (p = .0004), lower quality of life (p < .0001), lower career satisfaction (p = .0036), and recent medical errors (p = .0011). Conclusion Alcohol abuse or dependence is a significant problem among American physicians. Since prognosis for recovery of physicians from chemical dependency is exceptionally high, organizational approaches for the early identification of problematic alcohol consumption in physicians followed by intervention and treatment where indicated should be strongly supported. (Am J Addict 2015;24:30-38)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-38
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'The prevalence of substance use disorders in American physicians'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this