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When the Addict is a Doctor – The Stigma of Opioid Addiction in Healthcare

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The trend against punitive measures runs into resistance when the addict could cause medical errors

By Steven Ross Johnson
Excerpt: The fear of harm at the hands of impaired clinicians has prompted calls for them to undergo mandatory drug testing. In 2014, voters in California—which abandoned its addiction assistance program for doctors after concluding it wasn’t effectively addressing the problem—narrowly rejected a malpractice proposal that included a provision requiring physicians to undergo random testing. Proponents of testing include HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson. In 2014 Levinson co-wrote an editorial for the New York Times urging hospitals to screen all healthcare workers with access to drugs and in support of requiring hospitals to call the cops if they suspect a physician or worker is stealing drugs.
Some say such talk has worsened fears among providers that they’ll face punitive actions if they seek help for addiction—actually making it more, not less, likely that patients will be harmed. “The issue with physicians or anyone involved with public safety is that addiction is so stigmatized that the risk of losing your job or your practice is very great,” said Dr. Michael Lowenstein, medical director of the Waismann Method Medical Group, an opioid rapid detox center in Orange County, Calif. Read the article at Modern Healthcare.
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