AANA Treatment Recommendations for Anesthesia Professionals

Due to direct access to potent drugs and knowledge of pharmacology, anesthetists present unique challenges for treatment and recovery compared to other practice specialties.  They also face potential loss of profession, professional guilt and shame, and a tendency to intellectualize the treatment process.

Important steps in safely addressing a current suspicion of impairment or drug diversion:


AANA treatment recommendations for all anesthesia professionals and students with substance use disorder

The most desirable inpatient rehabilitation treatment program has experience treating healthcare professionals, specifically anesthesia professionals.

Completion of a minimum of 28 days inpatient treatment with at least 90 days of treatment total (inpatient or outpatient) offers the highest success rate. An ideal treatment center for anesthesia professionals includes:

  • Approval by the state board of nursing
  • A comprehensive evaluation and treatment recommendations by an American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) member certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) who is committed to evaluating and treating anesthesia professionals in abstinence based recovery models in accordance with other safety sensitive occupations such as aviation, department of defense and department of transportation
  • Evaluation by an American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) board-certified addiction psychiatrist where appropriate
  • Appropriate neuropsychiatric and or psychometric testing
  • Medically supervised detoxification, when clinically indicated
  • Treatment for mental health comorbidities
  • Emphasis on a long-term 12-step model of abstinence-based recovery
  • Evaluation of suitability for, and timing, of the return to anesthesia practice

Legal Reporting

The priority is to get the impaired individual evaluated and into treatment safely, reporting to the proper state and medical or nursing board can usually wait. If your workplace does not have a policy process for reporting, see Getting Help to contact your State Peer Advisor for state specific information.
Resources to help create a substance use disorder policy can be found at Substance Use Disorder Workplace Resources
Source: Addressing Substance Use Disorder for Anesthesia Professionals position statement and policy considerations

Treatment Centers

Careful consideration is needed when selecting an addiction treatment center for an anesthesia professional with substance use disorder. See the Getting Help.   

Some Addiction Treatment Centers Experienced in Treating Health Care Professionals:

Your State Peer Advisor can help with this decision and with State Board of Nursing requirements.

SAMHSA resources
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator (SAMHSA) 24-Hour Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357) 

SAMHSA brochures

Treatment Success

Substance use disorder in anesthesia professionals and students can be successfully treated. The Peer Assistance Advisors committee is aware of the essential role of appropriate, adequate, and effective treatment in recovery and potential return to anesthesia practice.
Various treatment options exist for the disease of addiction. Success rates in the SUD treatment of the anesthesia professional or student vary widely between modalities. AANA recommendations are based on those modalities found through the years (since inception in 1983 assisting peers with SUD) to offer the highest rate of success.

Post Treatment

Because all anesthesia providers face special occupational risks and challenges by their exposure and access to drugs of abuse,  post-treatment recommendations include:

  • Compliance with all treatment center recommendations for continuing care after discharge, such as:
    • Relapse prevention techniques
    • Recovering professionals meeting attendance
    • Active participation in the 12 step recovery community
    • Monitoring of random urine drug screens.

See also:
Recommendation for Reentry of the Nurse Anesthetists or Student with SUD 

If you have any questions, please call the helpline above.

SAMHSA Wellness

SAMHSA provides a Wellness Initiative: Eight Dimensions of Wellness guide to encourage people with mental health and SUD to incorporate Eight Dimensions of Wellness