When Doctors Behave Like Drug Dealers

Approximately 130 Americans die every single day of an opioid-related overdose in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal and local law enforcement officials have been working hard trying to disrupt the flow of illicit opioids. It becomes a more difficult task if medical professionals are directly involved in the criminal distribution of narcotic drugs. 

Following a federal sting operation, dozens of medical professionals in five states were charged in April with participating in the illegal prescribing of more than 32 million pain pills. Among the arrested were reportedly doctors who prosecutors said traded sex for prescriptions and a dentist who unnecessarily pulled teeth from patients to justify giving them opioids.

“The 60 people indicted include 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other licensed medical professionals. The charges involve more than 350,000 illegal prescriptions written in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia, according to indictments unsealed in federal court in Cincinnati.”

“That is the equivalent of one opioid dose for every man, woman and child in the five states in the region that we’ve been targeting,” said Brian Benczkowski, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department. “If these medical professionals behave like drug dealers, you can rest assured that the Justice Department is going to treat them like drug dealers.”

The Department of Justice in Washington is increasingly targeting doctors, healthcare companies, drug manufacturers, and distributors around the country for their roles in the opioid addiction epidemic. Medical professionals are at a high risk of getting enmeshed in the addiction crisis. They are typically under a lot of stress and have easy access to controlled substances. If they become addicted themselves, they often need to find illegal methods to feed their addiction. 

In Virginia, The Virginian-Pilot reported in March that “opioids played a role in nearly half of Virginia’s lost medical licenses over the past two decades.” The cases show how Virginia's opioid problem has impacted the medical establishment in the Commonwealth. “Physicians are more likely to abuse prescription opioid and anti-anxiety medications than the general population, especially in specialties including anesthesiology, psychiatry and emergency medicine,” an addiction expert told The Virginian-Pilot. Most won’t go nearly as far as the aforementioned individuals caught up in the federal sting operation, of course.  

Losing their medical license is a harsh penalty for doctors with addiction but also a strong motivation to seek treatment and go into recovery. In Virginia, it may involve a three-year suspension while the disciplined physicians prove their competency to earn back their license.

The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place has been helping medical professionals beat substance use disorders for a long time. We are recognized as one of the pioneering treatment facilities in the country helping licensed individuals with addiction learn how to cope with life stressors without drugs or alcohol. In our treatment program specifically designed for licensed professionals, patients engage in a physician-led group, discussing topics related to monitoring and returning to work, a medical lecture, and weekly Caduceus or legal professional meetings that are held on campus.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use and could benefit from addiction treatment services, please contact The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place at 800.582.6066 or fill out our admissions request form.