Con­fer­ence puts spot­light on ad­dic­tion among first re­spon­ders

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Steven Ross John­son

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 sig­nifi- cant 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.”

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