Gender plays a significant role in the development and treatment of substance abuse disorders. Sex-specific treatment for girls and women has recurrently proven more effective, with better outcomes than traditional treatment. Research on impaired healthcare professionals (HCPs) has largely focused on men, garnering little attention for women and sex differences. With the increasing numbers of female HCPs, it is imperative to identify potential sex differences that may have implications for treatment. Our study compared a convenience sample of male and female HCPs with substance abuse disorders treated in an outpatient program to identify sex differences that may have implications for treatment.
Our sample consisted of 96 HCPs (54 men, 42 women) and 17 non–healthcare professional (N-HCP) women. All of the participants were evaluated using the program’s clinical interview and the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI). Chart review data contained categorical variables, qualitative variables, diagnoses, and psychological test scores. A second analysis was conducted through two separate comparisons: the PAI results of comparing impaired female HCPs with impaired male HCPs and the PAI results of comparing impaired female HCPs with impaired female N-HCPs.
Statistically significant differences indicated more male participants received prior treatment and more intensive treatment than female participants. More female subjects reported being diagnosed as having a comorbid psychiatric condition and taking psychotropic medications. Several statistically significant differences in the PAI scores were found. Among female HCPs, elevations were found in anxiety, depression, paranoia, and borderline personality disorder. Substantive differences, although not statistically significant, were elevations in somatic complaints and anxiety disorders in female HCPs. In the comparison of female HCPs and N-HCPs, the only statistically significant difference was the significantly higher anxiety score of N-HCPs.
The results indicate greater differences between female HCPs and male HCPs than between female HCPs and N-HCPs.