Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace: When You Smell It, Do You Ask?

Alcohol Abuse

Peter Washburn, MD

Summer 2008 - Volume 12 Number 3


What do you do when you smell alcohol on the breath of a coworker? For obvious--and not so obvious reasons--this question has greater significance for those in health care. The following are excerpts from my memoir of 12 years as a Navy physician. In the 70s and early 80s, I became interested in what is now called Addiction Medicine. This interest blossomed when I took a two-week course for health professionals on substance abuse at the Naval Hospital in Long Beach, CA under the leadership of Captain Joseph Pursch, MD, then Medical Director.
Fresh from this two-week course, I returned to the Naval Hospital where I was stationed, now an "expert" on the diagnosis and treatment of alcoholism. A few months after my return, I had the opportunity to put into practice something I had learned in Long Beach.


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