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The Medical Association of Georgia's Impaired Physicians Program:  Review of the First 1000 Physicians: Analysis of Specialty

G. Douglas Talbott, MD; Karl V. Gallegos, MD; Philip O. Wilson, MD; Thomas L. Porter, PhD
JAMA. 1987;257(21):2927-2930. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390210075028.
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Risk factors for the disease of chemical dependence, or addiction to alcohol and/ or drugs, for physicians have not been clearly defined. Yet chemical dependence is believed to be a leading occupational hazard for physicians. This study compares the specialties of a population of physicians assessed for the presence of impairment (study group, N =1000) with the distribution of specialties for all US physicians. Only 21 of the total were found to be free of impairment from chemical dependence or psychiatric disease, while 920 physicians (92.0%) had a primary diagnosis of chemical dependence, and 59 (5.9%) had a major psychiatric illness. Anesthesia and family and general practice were found to be overrepresented in the population under study, as compared with all US physicians. There were significant differences between the study group and all US physicians with respect to age, sex, and practice activity status. The authors urge these apparent high-risk specialties, as well as the medical profession itself, to develop control or prevention strategies that will reduce risk for chemical dependence through education, early identification, intervention, and treatment of those individuals with the disease.

(JAMA 1987;257:2927-2930)


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