Medical Students at High Risk of Addiction

The medical field is an extremely stressful environment in which to work. When working to heal and save the sick, it begins to take a toll on a person’s mental health. Medical students, in particular, are vulnerable to burnout and alcohol abuse due to the pressure of work, school and focus on caring for others. High amounts of debt for young, single students can also be a risk factor for addiction.  These factors find Medical Students at High Risk of Addiction.


Addiction Research

Addiction researchers surveyed 12,500 medical students. Nearly one-third of students responded. Nearly 25% of students surveyed revealed experience with clinically diagnosed alcohol abuse or dependence. Statistics indicate only 16% of peers not in medical school experienced the same. Burnout was noted as being connected with alcohol abuse or dependence among medical students for many factors. Some of these include:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Feelings of depersonalization
  • Younger age than most peers in medical school
  • Being unmarried
  • Amount of student loan debt


Student Debt

One of the major factors in burnout leading to addictive behaviors in medical students is the increased cost of school attendance. Fees have catapulted over 200 percent at private colleges and approximately 286 percent at public schools. The average physician who graduates from medical school will owe nearly $180,000 in educational loans. Educational requirements are also a burden starting with four years of undergraduate school followed by four years of medical school and a three year residency program. Medical students spend long hours in the classroom then return home to study and prepare for exams. The culture of medical programs often promote the use of substance use to cope with stress.



Patterns of drinking among medical students can affect the general population when physicians and future physicians play a critical role in society as important leaders. Drinking can negatively impact a student’s studies and a medical student who drinks heavily may have negative ideas about drinking. Personal practices and counseling practices may create a correlation which could alter the professional approach to treatment for addiction. Additionally, some of the following may occur:


  • Addictive substances can be easily accessed by physicians. Increased availability explains why rates of substance abuse are higher among physicians than in the general population.
  • Accountability is lacking among students. Medical schools tend to be closed off to the general population which allows for close alignment with one another. If a student is known for substance abuse, others may do what is possible to keep it quiet so the individual is not caught.



Addiction Treatment

The conversation is ongoing as to what can be done to better support medical students with addiction. Addressing the issue in early stages and development of programs targeting this unique population can help prevent the cycle of abuse. With Medical Students at High Risk of Addiction, it’s important to know the treatment options. Alcohol abuse and burnout are serious concerns which can be addressed by appropriate treatment programs tailored to meet the needs of medical students.


Addiction is serious with potential consequences to yourself or a loved one. Call Hired Power to find out how we can support your recovery journey.  800-910-9299