Substance Use in Medical Students During COVID-19

medical student

Training for a new profession is stressful, and this stress level is amplified for students in the medical field. Whether they are first-year students or established residents, medical students manage physical and emotional strain. Long hours, tough cases, and patient loss all contribute to the daily burdens these future doctors carry. As a result, medical students frequently turn to substance misuse to cope with these situations. 

Substance Use Disorders in Medical Students

Research shows that medical students have a higher incidence of substance misuse than the general population in their age range. A 2016 study noted that 32% of doctors in training met the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. The researchers also reported that those who were burned out or depressed were more likely to exhibit alcohol dependence. Another research study looked at the prevalence of binge drinking amongst this population. This study found that over 70% of medical students reported drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting. 

The Impact of COVID-19 on Substance Use

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the strain put on medical professionals, and students were no exception to this. General mental health declined in the profession due to high levels of distress and burnout. Medical professionals were asked to work long hours and witnessed countless tragedies from this disease. In 2021, the Journal of Internal Medicine published a study focused on the effects of the pandemic on medical students specifically. 70% of students reported a decline in their mental health during this time. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people who have a mental disorder are more likely to use drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating. The medical student population was already at risk for substance use disorders, and a decline in mental health increased the chance these would occur. 

Addressing Substance Use in the Medical Field

Drug and alcohol addictions interfere with a person’s ability to function at his or her best. Because of the intensity of the medical profession, doctors must have consistent awareness and cognition to adequately do their jobs. This means being able to make decisions quickly and accurately. Medical professionals under the influence of drugs or alcohol are more likely to make mistakes, putting patients at risk. The challenge of managing addictions in medical students is helping them develop skills to manage stress while acknowledging the mental pressures of the job.

Substance Use Disorder Treatment for Professionals in Training 

At Providence Treatment, we recognize the unique challenges future medical professionals experience. Navigating the persistent stress of medical school takes a toll on these students’ mental and physical health. These stressors often lead to mental health and substance use disorders. In response to this growing need for support, we have developed a specialized outpatient treatment program for this demographic. 

Our Professionals in Training Program offers therapy services to help you manage anxiety, stress, or an addiction. We help you navigate your training in the medical field by providing advocacy and support in your program. By participating in this treatment program, you will learn healthy coping skills such as meditation, mindfulness, self-care practices, and anxiety-reduction techniques. If you are in a professional training program, like medical school, and need support for managing stress in a healthy way, contact our team today.

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