New insights: drug deaths among health professionals

New insights: drug deaths among health professionals

Nearly 40 healthcare workers a year on average are dying because of drug abuse, a Monash University study has found.

In the ten years to 2013, there were nearly five drug-related deaths per 1000 employees working in Australia’s healthcare system, with a strong association between specific professions and drug type.

Head of the Drug Harm Prevention Unit at Monash’s Department of Forensic Medicine, Dr Jennifer Pilgrim said the mortality rate was highest in veterinarians which mostly involved suicide by potent barbiturates – the kinds normally used in animal euthanasia.

Numerous factors put healthcare professionals at a higher risk of substance abuse and premature death, including high-stress jobs, access to controlled substances, long hours of practice and constant contact with the critically ill.

Deaths were more likely among women in their mid-40s, with a mental health condition, professional and/or personal stress and the intent to self-harm.

“By analysing deaths reported to the coroner, the study provides new data of confirmed drug misuse in health care professionals and avoids the limitations of studies that rely on self-reports of drug use,” Dr Pilgrim said.

“We hope that our research can help inform best approaches to health care professionals’ drug use and mental health care needs.”

If you need help, or to talk to someone, support is available by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.

You can read more about the study’s findings here. Story credit: Monash University newsroom.

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