You hear a lot about addiction in the media, so much so that we know that it touches all walks of life and shows no bias when it comes to socioeconomic factors. Regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, country of origin, or even your job category, addiction affects so many people around the world.
As a matter of fact, let’s focus on that last aspect for a moment: job category. Because one of the most forgotten populations in the addiction conversation are those who may be treating addicts themselves. Those who have the easiest access to medications also have addicts in their midst, and they require care just as much as (some might say more than due to their ease of proximity to substances) every other addict.
It’s what made this recent article in The New York Times so interesting. It focuses on Virginia Murauskas, a 65-year-old addiction counselor at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Center City, Minnesota. Her particular area of focus in treatment is “… a unit that treats women who are health care professionals like doctors, nurses and addiction counselors. Often this group has easy access to addictive medications… Addiction doesn’t discriminate.”
Although the unit has other professionals such as pilots and lawyers to round out the groups, it’s particularly interesting and exciting to hear that there is a recovery group for individuals in the medical industry. As members of recovery programs will tell you, it can be particularly challenging for nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals to get and stay clean due to the ease in which they can acquire their drug of choice. Even dentists and dental assistants are not immune to the seductive powers of gas and pharmaceutical painkillers. It’s just a plain fact: addiction strikes the human condition; it doesn’t really care what the other particulars might be.
By shining a light on the addiction treatment and recovery programs of medical professionals, this article shines a light and continues to reduce the stigma that keeps so many who need to seek help in the dark. We applaud this article and other efforts such as these to bring the conversation about mental health to the forefront of the media and keep it there until one day mental illness will be treated like a condition of the body, not a character flaw. We look forward to that day with tremendous hope and considerable grace.