When you go to the doctor, you trust that they will use their combined skills, knowledge and experience to diagnose and treat any medical conditions you may have. To do this requires a sober mindset, however, and that could potentially become a problem.
As it turns out, there is a higher rate of substance abuse and addiction among physicians than there is in the rest of the nation's population. In comparison with the general 9 percent rate of addiction for those in the United States, the rate for doctors may be as high as 15 percent.
One doctor who is now sober and practicing here in Boston relayed his addiction story in his book, Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts His Addiction, as well as in an interview with the New York Post.
The 49-year-old Newton native's story details his free-fall into addiction and redemption through rehab and continued pursuit of sobriety. But sadly, he is far from alone in his tale.
The doctor describes first taking Vicodin as a medical student at Boston University's School of Medicine in 1998. He got the pills from his girlfriend's father, himself a physician, who passed on drug rep samples to his daughter and her boyfriend. Quickly, the med student's usage escalated and turned into a full-blown addiction to opiate-based drugs.
To stay high, he diverted and outright stole his patients' pain medication. He wrote prescriptions in his nanny's name and continued doing so even after the New Zealand native returned to her home country. He rifled through his hosts' medicine cabinets at dinner parties and ripped off drugs from open houses on real estate tours that his wife, a real estate professional, organized.
Eventually, his misdeeds caught up with him when a savvy pharmacist notified the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of his unlawful activities. The doctor was charged with three felony counts related to writing fraudulent prescriptions.
This story has a happy ending because nobody died, he got sober and the charges got dropped. But not all addicted physicians are so lucky. They cause incredible pain to patients and their families when their impairment causes them to misdiagnose or improperly treat their patients.
If you suspect that an impaired physician caused or contributed to your worsened medical condition, you may have a cause of action to file a claim for damages.