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Drug-Impaired Professionals

Drug-Impaired Professionals

Robert Holman Coombs

ISBN 9780674001749

Publication date: 05/05/2000

"I started out snorting a couple of lines a night and ended up injecting and snorting about three grams a day."--That could be your dentist talking.

"I worked a lot with hangovers and made lots of mistakes when coming down off acid."--That might be your nurse.

"The patient was waking up and I was out cold."--And that was some unlucky patient's anesthesiologist.

Professionals trusted with our well-being are the last people we suspect of drug addiction. And yet they are at least as likely as anyone else to abuse alcohol and other drugs--a well-kept secret finally aired and fully examined in this powerful book. Drawing on more than 120 personal interviews with addicted physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, attorneys, and airline pilots and those who treat them, Robert Coombs gives us a startling picture of drug abuse among "pedestal professionals." He discusses addiction as an occupational hazard for those with the easiest access to drugs, the greatest sense of immunity to their perils, and the most extensive means (and reasons) for hiding their problems. Throughout, the interviewees' eloquent and often harrowing testimony reminds us of the human drama behind the exhaustive research and analysis presented here. Their bittersweet stories bear out Coombs's contention that recovering addicts, free of their magical elixirs, can become more complete people than they were before addiction.

From the biological, psychosocial, and spiritual roots of addiction to the equally diverse approaches to recovery, to the merits and failures of government drug policy, Drug-Impaired Professionals offers a clear and complete overview of a complex problem that affects nearly every family in America.


  • Dentists drilling under the influence and other members of important professions who indulge in controlled substances are the subject of Robert Holman Coombs' Drug-Impaired Professionals...Arguing that drug abuse is at least as prevalent among highly regarded professionals as among the general public, Coombs shares the results of three years of interviews with 91 addicted professionals...and he consults the experts who treated them...Inevitably, professionals develop an overly intellectualized attitude, which often combines with a near-pathological need to look cool and collected. Professionals-in-training, even those who specialize in pharmacology, learn very little about the stages of addiction, nor do they learn the coping skills that will allow them to manage stress without chemical aids. Coombs wisely recommends curriculum reform and counseling.

    —Maria-Caroline Perignon, Wall Street Journal


  • Robert Holman Coombs was Professor of Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Book Details

  • 368 pages
  • 0-7/8 x 5-3/4 x 8-7/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press