The programs aim to save the lives and careers of addicted physicians, and to protect the public by addressing substance use among doctors. They are also are an effective way to remove noncompliant doctors from the practice of medicine.
"This isn't to cover it up, it's quite the opposite," said Temple University psychiatry chairman Dr. David Baron, who oversees Pennsylvania's program. "It allows for quality treatment and to make sure that we're still ensuring the safety of the public." Baron was not involved in the current study.
Program measures include group and individual therapy, residential and outpatient programs, surprise workplace visits from monitors, and links to 12-step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Doctor-patients get care not just for drug problems, but also for accompanying medical or psychiatric disorders. They pay for their treatment, drug tests and follow-up care.
The research, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, evaluated 904 physicians admitted to 16 state-run Physician Health Programs from 1995 to 2001. Collaborators included founding National Institute of Drug Abuse Director and former drug czar Dr. Robert Dupont, A. Thomas McLellan, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Lisa Merlo, of UF.
Previous studies have shown that in individual states, and on a small scale, the programs are effective. The current study, first reported at the Betty Ford Institute, has the largest sample of physicians ever followed, and over the longest period.
Doctors in the programs had to abstain from alcohol or other drugs, and were tested frequently at random for
|Contact: Czerne M. Reid|
University of Florida