Two-thirds of doctors admit they prescribe drugs to themselves despite clear guidance warning against it, research shows.
A survey of more than 700 medics also found 72 per cent of them dish out medications to family – a practice also frowned upon.
And around six out of 10 physicians admitted to writing a prescription for friends or colleagues (58.5 and 59 per cent, respectively).
People who were close to doctors may be putting them under pressure to get the medicine, the study said, with 93 per cent revealing they had been asked to do it.
The research comes amid shortages of some drugs, fears Brexit will hit medicine stockpiles and concerns antibiotics are being overused and becoming less effective.
Two-thirds of doctors admit they prescribe drugs to themselves, despite clear guidance advising against it, research shows (stock)
Antibiotics were the drugs most commonly self-prescribed or given to loved ones, followed by contraceptives and painkillers, the study found.
But potent and potentially addictive drugs like antidepressants, sleeping pills, opioids and anxiety tablets were also doled out.
Previous studies have shown that suicide rates among physicians, particularly female ones, are higher than in the general population.
The researchers said self-diagnosis and self-treatment may plunge the doctors further into depression.
They add that physicians may be putting themselves at harm by underestimating the risk of getting hooked on these medications.
And the academics say doctors’ attachment to patients who are family or friends could lead them to eagerly prescribing the wrong kinds or quantities of drugs.
Working as a full-time family doctor is so stressful it’s becoming ‘undoable’
The pressures placed on GPs have made the job ‘undoable’ on a full-time basis, according to the new head of Britain’s family doctors.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the NHS staffing crisis and surging workloads meant too much stress was being lumped on doctors.
In his first interview since taking up the post, he said it was ‘crazy’ to think GPs could stay sharp five days a week, while seeing up to 70 patients each day.
It comes as waiting times to see a doctor soar to a record-high, with the average patient in England going two weeks before getting an appointment.
And new research shows just one in 20 trainee GPs plans to be working full time within 10 years of qualifying.
Professor Marshall, a GP in east London, said the unwillingness of trainees to work full-time was not because millennial medics were more workshy, adding: ‘I think what this signals is that the job of a GP is now undoable on a full-time basis.
‘The idea that we can see 50, 60, 70 patients a day, five days a week, is crazy. It is difficult to be as sharp on your 50th patient of the day, or your 200th blood test.
‘Each one involves a clinical decision, it carries a risk, which is an innately stressful decision to make; it carries a degree of anxiety that you might make a mistake or misdiagnosis. Decisions can be life or death.’
In Britain, the General Medical Council and Department of Health ‘strongly advise’ against doctors prescribing for themselves, family or friends ‘as a matter of good medical practice and common sense’.
They say medics’ judgement may be impaired when examining themselves of loved ones, increasing the threat of over-medicating or misdiagnosing.
The practice can be a sackable offence if they are thought to have shown a lack due diligence.
Researchers St Patrick’s University Hospital in Dublin distributed a 16-item online questionnaire to 729 doctors in Ireland.
Some 67 per cent admitted they had self-prescribed, over 70 per cent had prescribed to family, and nearly 60 per cent had prescribed to a friend or colleague.
GPs and paediatricians were more likely to self-prescribe and give family members medication, whereas surgeons were more likely to prescribe to friends.
Between three and seven per cent of doctors who had self-prescribed had prescribed high-risk drugs such as opiate painkillers, sedatives or mood-enhancing medications.
Male doctors, anaesthetists and surgeons were more likely to self-prescribe opioids, while those working in hospitals were more likely to self-prescribe mood enhancers.
Writing in the study, led by Dr Yvonne Hartnett, from the department of psychiatry at St Patrick’s, the authors wrote: ‘Further education is needed to protect doctors from the risks posed by this practice, namely risks on physical health or of addiction and suicide.
‘This should be incorporated into undergraduate medical education; but more importantly in continuing professional development programmes, given the higher propensity to prescribe in older doctors who are not on training schemes.
‘Particular emphasis should be placed in postgraduate training programmes for high-risk specialities such as anaesthetics and surgery.’
The findings are published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).