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Volume 9, Number 12Space holderMarch 25, 2005

Mental health, family history determine drug-abuse relapse risk

The risk of relapse is significantly increased for health-care professionals treated for substance abuse disorders if they have co-existing psychiatric illness or a family history of substance abuse, according to research by Karen Domino, professor of anesthesiology.

In the March 22 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Domino writes that the use of major opioid drugs combined with a history of previous relapse also increases the likelihood of another relapse.

Domino's article is based on a retrospective cohort study of 292 health-care professionals enrolled in the Washington Physicians Health Program, an independent post-treatment monitoring program, between January 1991 and December 2001.

She became interested in the problem of drug use among health-care professionals after surveying the cause of death among physicians and noting that anesthesiologists, who can easily obtain potent painkillers, were more likely to die from drug use than were internal medicine physicians.

Domino said that state physician health programs need to address the issues of drug abuse and relapse to help health professionals overcome drug dependence. She noted that some professionals may need to change specialties, thereby removing themselves from easy access to major opioids and other drugs.

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