Are Medical Students at Higher Risk of Addiction Due to Burnout?

It is no secret that the medical field is an overwhelming environment and can be extremely stressful. Any situation in which people are dealing with the saving of lives will be. It comes as no surprise then that medical students are more prone to burnout and alcohol abuse, than any other of their student peers. Students who are young, single and in debt are most vulnerable to succumb to alcohol abuse.

Statistics of Alcohol Abuse in Medical Students

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic surveyed 12,500 medical students, receiving a response from approximately 4,000 of them. Almost 25% of those surveyed conceded that they had struggled with alcohol abuse or dependence. This is a stark number when compared with those students not in medical school, where the rate was only 16%. This clearly shows a significant issue in the medical community.

Factors Causing Alcohol Abuse in Medical Students

The burnout experienced by medical students, associated with alcohol abuse or dependence, can be traced to several factors:

  • High amount of student loan debt.
  • Being younger than their peers in medical school.
  • Being unmarried.
  • Emotional exhaustion.
  • Feelings of de-personalization.

These factors are not shocking. Medical school costs have increased by 200% at private colleges and nearly 300% at public schools. The average medical school graduate will have a mountain of debt. Add to that the extremely strenuous educational requirements of medical school. Think about it. 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school and 3 years of a residency. It’s not surprising that medical students can turn to substance abuse to cope with the stress.

Risk of Addiction in Medical Students

Medical students are also at higher risk of addiction, because addictive substances are readily available to them. This is the reason why the rate of substance abuse is higher among individuals in the medical field, as compared to the general population. Doctors who illegally self prescribe are not a new phenomenon, it’s been happening for decades.

Further, there is a lack of accountability among medical students. Due to medical schools being a close knit community, even if a student was openly abusing substances, chances are that they wouldn’t get caught, or even be reported. In the medical community this is referred to as the ‘conspiracy of silence’, and unfortunately nothing much can be done about it.

All of this is a clear indicator of the need to raise awareness of this issue. There is reason for concern and it should be addressed.

Alcohol abuse and burnout are serious concerns. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, call The Villa to seek an effective treatment program.