An estimated 12% of licensed clinicians, physicians and paramedics live with addiction that makes it hard for them to do their jobs and live their lives safely. But this population, with plenty of resources at hand, often fails to get the help they need to overcome their addiction. These professionals worry about the stigma attached to the disease and the possibility of losing their livelihood if they are found incompetent.
But a conference taking place this week in Las Vegas looks to pull back the curtain on the problem and find innovative therapies.
The sixth annual Lifestyle Intervention Conference gathers the country's leading addiction experts.
Two sessions will focus on emergency personnel. The nature of their jobs means these people face significant levels of stress because of the sometimes horrific situations they encounter every day.
Experts in the field say the same personality traits and coping behaviors that make people attracted to the profession could also make it easier for them to fall into self-destructive habits such as substance abuse.
An estimated 10% of the country's firefighters have substance abuse issues, according to the U.S. Firefighters Association.
Other topics to be addressed at the conference explore the links between non-drug related addictions such as gambling, eating disorders, and sex and chemical dependence.
“There's actually no difference,” said Dr. Howard Wetsman, a keynote speaker at the conference who is chief medical officer for Louisiana-based Townsend Treatment Centers. “Addiction isn't a disease of the process or the drug—it's an illness of the brain, and it's chronic and progressive.”