ASA® Statement Regarding the Journal of the American Medical Association December 4 Study

Chicago — (December 6, 2013) 

Substance abuse is a heartbreaking disorder with life-threatening consequences. Unfortunately, substance abuse is a widespread epidemic that is pervasive in our nation and is not unique to physicians or any health care provider. In 2011, an estimated 22.5 million Americans aged 12 or older—or 8.7 percent of the population—had recently used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant or tranquilizer), according to National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In a study published in the December 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association it was reported that substance abuse among anesthesiology residents is a rare problem, less than one percent, much less than the general population. But any abuse is a serious problem for both the individual and our patients. Accordingly, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA®) has committed to minimizing this risk. Our commitment to patient safety is indisputable. The ASA® Task Force on Chemical Dependency produced a document for anesthesiology residents and their families, “Chemical dependence in anesthesiologists: What you need to know when you need to know it.” It provides background information to help residents find answers to assess a colleague’s or their own addiction.

The task force also created a course, “Model curriculum on drug abuse and addiction for residents in anesthesiology,” that details the scope of the issue, factors on why abuse happens, identifies signs and symptoms, offers treatment suggestions and discusses relapse. At the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2013 annual meeting, a “point/counterpoint” discussion, “One strike and you’re out? Should the narcotic addict in recovery be allowed to return to work in the OR?” was presented and every year at the Society’s annual meeting, a refresher course, “Chemical dependency and anesthesiology” is offered.

In addition to its Task Force on Chemical Dependency, the Society collaborates externally in the Partnership® at on the Medicine Abuse Project, a public campaign promoting the safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs. ASA® has also recently collaborated with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to respond to the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.  The American Society of Anesthesiologists openly acknowledges this important issue and is committed to doing our utmost in the best interests of our patients.


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Join the ANESTHESIOLOGYTM 2014 social conversation today. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter and use the hashtag #ANES2014.



American Society of Anesthesiologists