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A questionnaire on substance abuse was distributed electronically to the heads of 185 Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists accredited anaesthesia departments in Australia and New Zealand. The response rate was 57%. From January 2004 to December 2013, 61 cases of substance abuse were identified, giving an estimated incidence of 1.2 cases per 1000 anaesthetist years. Of 44 detailed reports completed, the majority were aged between 30 and 49 years, were male and of specialist grade. However, when corrected for gender and grade, the estimated overall incidence was higher in females and twice as high for trainees compared with specialists. When compared with prior surveys, the pattern of substance abuse in Australia and New Zealand appears to have changed significantly, with a notable increase in propofol and alcohol abuse and a decrease in reported cases of opioid abuse. Common presenting features of abuse included intoxication and witnessed abuse. Seventy percent of cases had more than one comorbid condition, most frequently either mental health or family problems. Only 32% of abusers had made a long-term recovery within the specialty. Death was the eventual outcome in 18% overall, with a particularly high mortality associated with propofol abuse (45%). Trainee suicide from all causes was reported at three times the rate of specialists. The findings indicate that substance abuse remains a significant problem in Australia and New Zealand and is associated with a significant mortality rate.

Original publication




Journal article


Anaesth Intensive Care

Publication Date





111 - 117


alcohol, chemical dependence, death, drug abuse, professional impairment, substance abuse, suicide, Adult, Age Distribution, Anesthesiology, Australia, Female, Humans, Incidence, Male, Mental Health, Middle Aged, New Zealand, Physician Impairment, Retrospective Studies, Sex Distribution, Substance-Related Disorders, Suicide, Surveys and Questionnaires, Young Adult