A new research analysis has been published in the General Hospital Psychiatry Journal concerning the high physician suicide rates shows some surprising results. Substance abuse can play a role in suicide among physicians but there are also other factors that increase the risk of suicide for physicians as well. The three top factors linked to physician suicide rates were being found unfit to practice, those who practiced solo, and those who who were taking anti anxiety drugs in the benzodiazepine class. Being found unfit to practice was one of the factors that could increase the rate of suicide among doctors, and this is no big surprise. If a physician can not practice then they could lose income, reputation, and even their ability to practice medicine in any way.
The physician suicide rates that were looked at in the analysis showed that while substance abuse could play a part there were also other factors involved as well. According to Vanderbilt Comprehensive Assessment Program medical director and clinical psychiatry associate professor Reid Finlayson, M.D., “Being found unfit for practice means a loss of income, loss of social contact, and loss of social status. It’s very distressing.” Finlayson continued with “The extreme stress associated with practicing medicine and the relatively high rates of suicidal behavior among doctors make it important to be able to identify those who are at risk. That suggests that doctors who are taking benzodiazepines may self-prescribe, and may be more likely to be prescribing them too often for their patients, and contributing to the epidemic drug abuse in this country. Our next steps are to try and find some way to predict which physicians will try to commit suicide. This may be a bit premature, but the next time I evaluate a physician taking benzodiazepines, I will try harder to have them detoxify. Benzodiazepine use appears to be a risk factor for suicide.”