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Monday, March 10, 2008

They got into the business sideways: Recovering physicians in addiction treatment

[Recovering physician] addicts increasingly encountered one another at ASAM events. One talked about a late 1980s review course for ASAM's certification exam where there was an AA meeting of the hotel hosting the event:

"There were probably 150 of us in that course…So I showed up for [the AA meeting], being a recovering person myself, and almost everyone from upstairs was downstairs. Out of the 150 who were there [for the review course], I would say there were about 120 in that [AA] meeting, which was a real eye-opener. So the first five or ten years that I was doing this, most of the other doctors that I talked to were like me – they were just old drunks who sort of got into the business sideways."

Like Dr. Douglas Talbott himself, the graduates of Talbott’s impaired physicians program (the Disabled Doctors' Plan] were inspired by their own recovery from addiction to reorient their careers to care for other alcoholics and drug addicts. "These people came out bonded into AA," said an addiction treatment expert familiar with this history. "And many of these people – surgeons, obstetricians, anesthesiologists...internists, family physicians – decided that they wanted to work in the field of addiction." Years later Talbott himself wrote that "most [state-run treatment] programs were initiated by physicians who were in the recovery phase of their disease."

Another physician in recovery recalls that there were "anesthesiologists galore…[and] a handful of…pathologists who didn't deal with 'live ones' at all. We even had a couple of forensic pathologists which I thought was great sport. Can you think of better people to be counseling you? But there they were. So it's been a grand hodge podge."

Help others who are making the same mistakes you made.

Browse for related stories in the index at the very bottom of this page, or read another impaired physician story.

Thanks to Dr. Christopher Freed for the source article in the Spring 2007 issue of Contemporary Drug Problems.

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