Doctors use far less illegal drugs than the general population does. But, in 2008, the Harvard Review of Psychiatry indicated that physicians are five times more likely than any other member of society to abuse prescription drugs. This, of course, is due to a doctor’s close, unchecked proximity to addictive medications.
Imagine a surgeon addicted to hydrocodone botching a surgery by failing to properly stitch a nose back on to a patient’s face. Or try to picture a surgeon addicted to painkillers who put a hole in his patient’s colon. These and many more “accidents” happen because the person with the scalpel is misusing prescription drugs.
It takes a long time to get a doctor into alcohol or addiction treatment But when a doctor finally enters a treatment program, it is usually long term, comprehensive and compliance centered.
Physician Health Programs (PHP) is a national group that coordinates treatment help for doctors with alcohol or addiction problems. With PHP, the earlier a doctor’s substance problem is detected, the better. This program brings the doctor with the problem, his family, colleagues and employer together to assist the doctor in committing to a five-year program. He is given an ultimatum: Either leave the profession or commit to treatment.
Doctors get the best treatment for substance addiction. If you look at the types of rehab centers that parolees are mandated to attend, it seems like a bad case of preferential treatment being afforded to the doctors. But, nevertheless, physicians are given the best treatment.
Good, Expensive Treatment:
An addicted physician will be treated at a treatment center like the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California or Promises (celebrity rehab program in Malibu, California) or a respected hospital rehab program. These programs are $50,000 and more monthly. However, a doctor’s insurance plan will cover much of the cost, and the physician must cover the rest.
When you look at the harm potential to society at large when the doctor is active in his addiction or alcoholism, you probably come to the conclusion that no matter what kinds of chances a doctor is given or where he gets his addiction treatment, society must be protected.
The PHP five-year physician’s program consists of 90 days of inpatient treatment, with constant compliance monitoring and progress reports given to PHP. After treatment, the physician must attend regular 12-step meetings, ongoing counseling sessions and undergo random drug testing.
Doctors who commit to this five-year approach to treatment have a phenomenal 70% success rate. The key to success is the length of time they are monitored, the fact that they are willing to comply because they don’t want to lose their medical licenses, family support and the ongoing 12-step support through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Cocaine Anonymous (CA).
At all 12-step meetings, no one is distinguished apart from anyone else. You don’t know if a 12-step meeting attendee is a school janitor, unemployed, or a heart surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Center.