Substance abuse is the most frequent cause of impairment among physicians. About 10% to 15% of physicians have a substance abuse disorder at some point during their life — a rate similar to substance abuse among the general public.
For physicians, substance abuse directly impacts their career. It impairs their ability to practice with reasonable skill and safety, thus violating the code of conduct.
While there is sometimes legitimate concern about a health professional’s potential substance abuse, there is also a large number of health professionals reported for minor substance use issues that do not impair their ability to practice.
Unfortunately, many health professionals are coerced into intervention and monitoring programs by employers, insurance carriers and state licensing boards, and are unaware of the alternatives that may help them maintain their license.
Often, health professionals are told that these intervention programs are their only choice if they wish to continue practicing.
But this is not true.
A professional licensing attorney can help avoid licensing action without enrollment in an intervention program or can negotiate a less intrusive recovery program for health professionals with actual substance abuse issues.
The outcome in large part depends on three critical factors:
- Do you have an alcohol or drug addiction?
- Is this your first offense?
- Are you able to prove to the relevant board that:
- this was an isolated situation;
- you are safe to practice;
- you would not benefit from a period of monitoring; and
- you do not need active supervision?
What to do if you have been accused of substance abuse
First, do not under any circumstances contact the relevant interventional program. In Michigan, do not call HPRP. In Florida, do not call IPN or PRN.
Contrary to the mission statement of the relevant state program, they are not there to help you and guide you. Their job is to protect the public.
Of course this is a very subjective mission and open to aggressive interpretation. In some cases, this mission can be abused by the authorities who provide these services.
Uninformed co-workers or supervisors may encourage you to call HPRP or PRN/ IPN.
Don’t be tempted.
Do not try to handle the licensing aspect by yourself or with someone who only handles a few cases. A disciplinary matter involving substance abuse can easily lead to suspension or revocation of your professional license if handled poorly.
You need a professional licensing attorney who knows what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
Turn to the Professionals
At Chapman Law Group, we focus solely on health care law. We working with licensed medical professionals like you on matters affecting your practice, your license and your career.
Whether you are a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse (RN, LPN, CNA, CRNA), psychologist or another licensed health care professional, we will assist you with difficult issues such as substance abuse and help keep you practicing.
If you have a substance abuse problem and are in danger of losing your license, contact us right away. We will work through these critical steps with you and, if possible, prove to the relevant board that you are capable of continuing without an intervention.
A substance abuse issue is not the end of the world if it’s handled properly. You will get through the process if you take the necessary steps to retain help from a professional licensing attorney experienced in professional licensing.