Alcoholism affects people in all parts of society. Class, gender and income do not matter, anyone can develop an alcohol problem. Recent statistics back up this claim completely as it has been found that rates of alcoholism among professional workers is rising.Unfortunately, the traditional image of an alcoholic is a down and out drinking mentholated spirits and begging for money. It is generally associated with people at the lower end of the financial scale. This is very much a distorted view of the problems of alcoholism and the people who are likely to suffer from alcohol addiction. Alcoholism cuts across all classes, genders and backgrounds. However, this week experts warned of a growing problem of alcoholism amongst professionals such as lawyers, dentists, doctors and vets.
Recent research suggests that 15-24% of lawyers will suffer from alcoholism during their careers. The British Medical Association estimates that one in 15 healthcare professionals will develop an addiction problem. It has been suggested that Doctors are three times more likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver than the general population. The UK co-coordinator of health support programmes for dentists and veterinary surgeons, Rory O’Conner told the Observer newspaper "There are serious issues regarding health professionals accessing appropriate help for mental health issues and there are serious issues in the treatment that is out there for them."
The problem is largely getting missed because this group of alcoholic sufferers is functioning in their life and work. The illness causes varying degrees of impairment which apart from being dangerous to the sufferer themselves has a knock on effect on how well they are performing their work. The professions most affected call for incisive judgments involving the lives of other people.
Sufferers not accessing alcohol treatment
Because many of the professionals are helping others (the health service has been highlighted) sufferers are slow in coming forward for treatment for two major reasons. Firstly, it maybe seen as a weakness and effect their standing in their chosen career, and secondly, they may have to be treated within their own catchment area by their colleagues and peers. Subsequently, many professionals are going abroad to find alcohol rehabilitation opportunities.
Many have said that the problem has always been present within health service with doctors and nurses being well known for “hard partying” and “a riotous social life”. Starting as a drinking culture in student life, it may turn into an alcohol issue when the extreme work pressures take effect.
Rory O’Connor reflected on the growing number of professionals “From an economic perspective, ignoring this issue is not a very wise thing to do, and from a public safety aspect it's not wise to have people out there who are practicing while impaired through addiction”