Long Term Inpatient Drug Rehab: Drug Rehab Program for Doctors in California to Be Cancelled

In 1980, a special program was developed for doctors with drug and . The program allows doctors to continue practicing while undergoing alcohol or drug rehab. However, according to the Medical Board of California (MBC), five status reports on the program have proven it to be inefficient and dangerous to patients. The MBC has decided to cancel the program as of next June. Unless the program is extended by legislation, doctors with alcohol and drug abuse problems may then have their licenses revoked with zero tolerance. Doctors abusing drugs or alcohol would be wise to take a leave of absence and get into a successful alcohol or drug rehab program rather than take that risk.

The program requires alcohol or drug testing, group therapy and psychotherapy sessions as well as a designated independent monitor who oversees each doctor’s practice. However, according to status reports, these requirements are easy to mess with: sometimes the monitor is one of the doctor’s employees who has been ordered to lie, or no one ensures that the doctor is attending therapy sessions, or the urine tests are done on a predictable schedule so the doctor can also schedule his ingestion of alcohol or drugs accordingly.

One doctor enrolled in the five-year program said he was able to fool the system for years and almost “graduated” while he was still using drugs.

One of the major reasons for the program’s failure may be that doctors who continue to practice while undergoing alcohol or drug abuse treatment do not have access to long-term inpatient drug rehab, which is the most successful.

The hearing that motivated the MBC to finally end the alcohol and drug rehab program included testimony from 10 patients who were harmed by enrolled doctors. One woman said she was disfigured by plastic surgery she later found out was inappropriate for her condition. The plastic surgeon had two drunk driving arrests and several reports of negligence from patients, but was still allowed to continue in practice.

Over $ 500,000 has been spent recently to fix the problems found in the first four reports, but state auditors are not impressed with the improvements. “The medical board … has not provided consistently effective oversight,” the auditor, Elaine Howle, wrote in her report. Julianne D’Angelo Fellmeth, an attorney with the University of San Diego’s Center for Public Interest Law, called the program “a sham and a travesty.”

The program treats 400 doctors every year. Currently 249 are enrolled. Of those, 140 were ordered into the program by the medical board, and 99 entered the program because they were encouraged to do so by family, friends or peers.

There are 35,000 doctors in California and they all worked hard and long to get where they are. California has many successful alcohol and drug rehab programs. If you know a doctor who is abusing drugs or alcohol, get them into a successful alcohol or drug rehab program now. Don’t let them risk everything they’ve worked for, and the lives and health of their patients.

Gloria is a freelance writer who contributes articles of health

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