Ten Jobs That Will Drive You to Drink
(page 2)Barrett, a 42-year old medical sales executive in Pennsylvania, was one of the 1.6%. Now working in medical sales, the tall and handsome Barrett still walks with the confidence of an MD as he explains to me that he never really drank or used drugs until he was in medical school. “I joined anesthesia because it catered well to my technical side and I thought it would provide a high income-to-work ratio,” he says. “It wasn’t until I started interning that I started using the drugs, and it didn’t last very long. Internship hours are not very conducive to being a drug addict.”
After being arrested on drug possession charges with drugs from the hospital as well as other street drugs, Barrett saw his future in anesthesiology go down the drain. It was then that he was sent to a rehab for medical professionals—and was shocked to discover that he was not alone. “I honestly had such a level of naivety,” he says. “I thought I was the only doctor dealing with this stuff. It wasn't until I was in treatment that I was able to see the extent of addiction in the field of medicine.” According to Barrett, “There isn't adequate information in medical school about proper medical billing, let alone addiction—I had a clinical understanding from my psychiatric rotation but understood very little from the addict's perspective.”
It’s the people who bring their risk factors to the job that are most prone to fall victim to addiction.
Barrett paid a high price for his addiction: losing his license to practice. He has since gotten sober and found a meaningful career in medical sales. While he says that he never thought “this is where my life would take me, I also didn’t grow up thinking I would become an addict. I thought I would be a doctor.”
So what is it about these professions—arts, medicine, and some would add insurance, sales, journalism, and a host of others—that attract addicts? Friedman holds that it’s the people who bring their risk factors to the job. “If you look at a profession and see people in it who have drug problems,” he says, “you have to assume they would have had them no matter what profession they were in.”
With anecdotal evidence the only support for the widespread addictions-cause-addiction notion, the neuroscientist says it's merely a hypothesis waiting for a proof. “This is the kind of thing that the National Institute of Mental Health will never pay anyone to do research on,” Raeburn says. “But I do think that people in the arts and entertainment industries have a lot of unique circumstances that other industries don’t have—a lot of stressors that lead them to want to have transcendental experiences. And they have people offering them things that aren’t offered to most of us."
As for doctors, Friedman explains that although the medical community is aware of its high rate of addiction, it's only beginning to come to grips with the addressing the causes. “We’re well aware of the risks in our own communities but it’s really hard to get people to call one of their own on their behavior,” he says. “Doctors have done a terrible job asking their patients about drug and alcohol use—let alone each other.”
Kristen McGuiness is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Fix who wrote previously about old timers in AA and sober travel, among other topics. She is the author of 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life.