Addiction and Alcohol Treatment for Dentists

Most healthcare professionals have a prescription pad and ready access to heavily addictive prescription drugs. If a dentist has any inclination in the way of addiction, he is a time-bomb. Unless he has the will to avoid painkillers and other addictive medications, he stands a much higher chance of becoming an addict or alcoholic at some time in his adult, professional life.

Ten to 12 percent of the general population, at some point in their lives, becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol. For dentists, the percentage is more like 19 percent who become addicted.
Addictive Personality Type:

Some experts in the field of addiction also believe that dentists are one of the personality types less immune to drug addiction and alcoholism. They fall into the driven, compulsive personality type. They tend to be more manipulative and somewhat controlling. This type of personality gravitates to the high-achiever professions like dentistry.
Controller Attracts Enabler:

The compulsive personality type usually pairs itself with a more practical, enabling personality. This is the perfect social set-up for addiction and alcoholism to thrive. A dentist will marry an enabler and hire an office staff of enablers who will “cover” for doctor’s addiction to drugs or his proclivity to drink too much.
In the family of an addict or an alcoholic, there is an endless cycle of denial and deflection away from the person with the addiction. The same applies to an office of employees who are employed by the dentist.
Because of this dynamic, it takes a long time before a dentist actually gets into recovery from drugs or alcohol or from both. Many treatment programs have a department dedicated to the treatment of professionals, like doctors, dentists, lawyers and pharmacists.
Wall of Rational Defenses:

When a dentist enters rehab for his addiction to drugs or alcohol, he must undergo several different learning processes in order to overcome his addiction. The biggest and most difficult mindset to combat is the wall of rational defenses that the dentist has erected around himself during his years of addiction.

This wall of rational defenses is best dealt with in group therapy, where patients at various levels of recovery assist the new member in identifying why he is in rehab. When a dentist first enters a rehab program, it is usually at the insistence of his wife, children, boss or some other important, influential person in his life. But in his heart of hearts, the dentist believes that everyone is over-
reacting to his problem — if he has one at all.

Through time spent in group therapy and with the other interventions and therapies in rehab, the dentist begins to gain understanding into the magnitude if his problem. Only then, can he begin to learn new and healthier ways of coping with his life and its stressors.

He will undergo individual therapy, education classes, cognitive behavioral therapy, and develop an individualized relapse plan for how he will deal with cravings after he leaves rehab and is back at his job.