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Myth Buster Series: Addiction Means Loss of License

By: Ethan Bickelhaupt

By: Ethan Bickelhaupt

As a physician, lawyer or any other vocation requiring licenses to practice a particular skill set needed to serve, protect or save the lives of others, certain precautions and means of accountability should be put in place to ensure these professionals retain the licenses they’ve worked so hard to receive. Out of all the devastating things that could possibly happen within these professions, few can be as daunting and threatening to one’s livelihood as the loss of their license.  And yet, there have been numerous cases among medical and legal professionals in which licenses were lost due to everything from medical malpractice to substance abuse. For the sake of this particular article however, we are going to briefly delve into the latter and discuss the possible outcomes for medical and legal professionals who face the threat of license suspension or revocation.

Imagine for a second that you are 10 years old. You’re an ordinary kid with big hopes, big dreams. You hadn’t really thought much about what you wanted to be when you grew up, but you’ve tossed around a few ideas and possibilities for your future career. Even so, you hadn’t really put much weight into it, after all you're still a kid. But then something significant happens, you’re at home with your parents and you just happen to pass by the living room as they are watching their favorite medical drama on TV. There’s an intense scene where a man on a gurney is pushed through the double doors of the ER in need of emergency surgery. There are people running everywhere, blood is pouring out of the patient’s side, there’s chaos all around and then suddenly, somehow in the midst of all commotion, some heroic doctor finds a way to calmly handle the situation, stabilize the patient and do what’s necessary to perform the required emergency surgery. All is well and the audience can breathe again. This scene captivates you, you stand there in awe and you pine for the day when you can watch again, not just for the thrill of drama, but because there was something in you that came alive when you saw what the doctor had done. Flash 4 years later, you’re in high school with a reenforced vision of becoming a doctor. You sacrifice countless nights of hanging out with your friends and participating in extra curricular activities all in the hopes of achieving the grades necessary to get into a good college.  4 years later, all of that hard work pays off. You get into your desired university and again you’re back at it. Late nights, long hours, sacrificing leisure time all for the sake of getting your undergraduate degree with honors. Another 4 years go by, you’ve graduated, but now the stakes are higher. You choose to step up your game, you’re going to get your Master’s degree and there’s nothing or no one that’s gonna stand in your way to get it. Another 2 years go by and you’ve successfully completed your Master’s. Now on to the Doctorate. Another few years of hard work, late nights, long study sessions and of course that dreadful Doctoral Dissertation. It begins to wear on you, you need some sort of medication to keep you going. A doctor prescribes you some pills and you take them, no big deal. You press in, it’s tough but you’ve come this far, you endure and meet your desired goal. You’ve officially gained the title of Doctor, but now you’ve got medical school. You’re already working two jobs to help pay for credits and loans, but you know it’s going to be all worth it. So you get into med school, interning as you study, work, and gain your residency. Now, you’re in. After all of your hard work, an over a decade of schooling, you attain the title of MD and you’re ready to join a hospital.

You get in and you do your job well. The demand for your services becomes more frequent which requires more hours from you. You’re up late, sleep, then a few hours later you’re back at it. The stress of your job begins to take a toll on you and you’ve developed a sleep disorder so you begin to rely on pills to help you sleep. They make you drowsy, you need pills to keep you awake. You develop headaches, no worries, nothing a prescription pain killer can’t cure. Now it’s all leveled out, it’s almost euphoric, that is until you realize it’s become your way of life and you’ve subtly found yourself on the path to addiction. Without the pills, you feel useless, incoherent and not yourself. People begin to take notice as your ability to perform your dutiful tasks starts to become questionable. Your world slowly starts to close in on you as reports are being made to the board that you may now be an addict. The threat to your livelihood becomes real and that which you’ve so worked hard for is starting to collapse on you.  You’re at a crossroads concerning your calling, you don’t want to admit your problem for fear that you’ll lose everything, but if you don’t say something, you may very well lose everything anyway. Catch 22 and no clue what to do.

Sadly, stories like these are very common among medical and legal professionals. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, studies show that approximately 10-12% of physicians will develop a substance abuse disorder during their careers. It’s no secret, especially in the medical field, that access to drugs are fairly easy to obtain and its ease is sadly contributing to this nationwide epidemic among business professionals. The honest and harsh truth is that many practitioners both legal and medical have lost their licenses as a result of substance abuse and in most cases rightly so,  but being an addict doesn’t have to always end with that being the case. Sure, a responsible medical or legal board must do what is necessary to protect practitioners, hospitals, firms, clients and patients alike, however more and more faculties are being put into place within firms and hospitals that will deal with these issues discreetly through the use of intervention and rehabilitation. There is yet hope for those facing these very real circumstances, however it is absolutely essential that these addictions be brought to the light so that they may be properly dealt with. The sooner it is exposed, the sooner it can be dealt with. Even if in the slightest it appears as though this is a path you or someone you know is taking, do not hesitate to confront it immediately. Much can be done to prevent irreversible disaster. Studies have shown that while there are slight recidivism rates, many professionals who have gone through treatment are able to recover and lead normal lives within their practice.


That is also why centers like Parkdale are essential. Parkdale provides all the necessary tools needed for intervention and rehabilitation for those who need help and it can be done so discreetly and purposefully. We know all the ins and outs for doing what’s necessary in helping business professionals get help while doing all we can to help them retain their licenses. Don’t let substance abuse victimize you to the point where you're livelihood is being threatened, we encourage you to take the first step in getting the necessary help you need to be successful and be the best possible you that you were meant to be. If you are business professional in need of our services, we are uniquely equipped to take the necessary measures to help you get where you’re going. Give us a call today! We’re on your side and we’re here to help!


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