Substance Abuse Matters

Substances use 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. Unfortunately for physicians, substance abuse directly impacts their career as it impairs their ability to practice with reasonable skill and safety; and therefore violates the code of conduct.

More Information About Impairment Programs:
Professionals Resource Network (PRN)
Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN)
Health Professionals Recovery Program (HPRP)

***Click here to read about our class action against HPRP***

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. This is incorrect! 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.

Chapman Law Group is dedicated to advocating for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses (RN, LPN, CNA, CRNA), psychologists, and a host of other licensed healthcare professionals when confronted with the difficult decisions related to substance abuse. The outcome in large part depends on three critical factors:

1. do you have an alcohol or drug addiction,
2. is this your first offense,
3. are you able to prove to the relevant board:

a. that this was an isolated situation,
b. that you are safe to practice,
c. that you would not benefit from a period of monitoring, and
d. that you do not need active supervision.

Chapman Law Group is prepared to work through these critical steps with you and, if possible, prove to the relevant Board that you are capable of continuing without an intervention.

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. Uninformed co-workers or supervisors may encourage you to call HPRP or PRN/ IPN. Resist the temptation! Your first call should be to a professional licensing attorney. Please do not try to handle the licensing aspect by yourself or with someone who only handles a few cases. You need a professional licensing attorney who knows what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. A disciplinary matter involving substances abuse can easily lead to suspension or revocation of your professional license if poorly handled.

Our attorneys are dedicated to assisting health professionals and we would like to assist you with difficult issues such as substance abuse. We want to help keep you practicing. Remember, a substance abuse issue is not the end of the world if 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. If you do have a dependency or impairment problem, the interventional programs are there to help; if you do not have a dependency/impairment problem, the interventional programs are a nightmare and need to be avoided at all costs.

Five Primary Reasons for Prescription Drug Misuse Journal of Addiction Medicine, 2013

  • To manage physical pain
  • To manage emotional/psychiatric distress
  • To manage stressful situations
  • To serve recreational purposes
  • To avoid withdrawal symptoms

Common Misused Substances by Physicians

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription Opiates
  • Prescription Sedatives
  • Marijuana
  • Illegal Stimulants

Helpful Resources

Reasons for Misuse of Prescription Medication Among Physicians Undergoing Monitoring by a Physician Health Program, Journal of Addiction Medicine, 2013, Lisa J. Merlo, PhD, MPE


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