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Medical Workers and Substance Abuse

Defending medical workers against allegations of substance abuse

Alcohol or drug abuse among medical professionals is not uncommon and can create a heightened risk of patient harm. A timely, smart legal defense is crucial in response to a complaint made to a state licensing board alleging such behavior on the part of a doctor, nurse or other professional in the medical field.

The medical workplace has been in a pressure cooker since 2020 when the COVID-19 epidemic began, followed by a serious staffing shortage that continues today. It is no surprise that some doctors, nurses, therapists and other medical professionals are vulnerable to alcohol or drug addiction as well as to depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges.

The stress is immense. Yet, vulnerable, ill and injured patients rely on these professionals for care and protection. Long hours and physical exertion, traumatic patient experiences and fatigue tend to intensify occupational pressure that may lead to addictive behavior.

Licensed medical professionals at risk

States regulate professional and vocational licensing through regulatory boards. These boards license and monitor a wide range of medical professionals, including:

  • Chiropractors
  • Counselors and Therapists
  • Dentists
  • Dietetics
  • Long-term health care administrators
  • Massage therapists
  • Doctors
  • Physician assistants (PAs)
  • Anesthesiologist assistants
  • Respiratory care practitioners
  • Cardiovascular invasive specialists
  • Acupuncturists
  • Nurses
  • Occupational therapists
  • Opticians
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical therapists
  • Podiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Speech-language pathologists and audiologists

Any licensed person working in one of these fields may be susceptible to allegations of SUD in a health care setting that could negatively impact their license status.

Those allegations may be entirely false or exaggerated. Or the accused licensed professional might have a problem with substance abuse. Either situation requires a rigorous legal defense of their license and career, and/or chemical dependency treatment.

South Carolina offers medical professionals struggling with addiction , a treatment program called the South Carolina Recovering Professional Program (SCRPP). SCRPP’s goal is to treat and support medical professional’s return safely to the workplace. This program allows for health care professional to self-refer or the applicable licensing board may refer through a negotiated settlement with the board.

What is next?

Involving an attorney with experience in defending against an allegation of SUD that impacts the medical professional’s ability to work safely is important. The attorneys at Strause Law Group have experience with regulatory agencies and defending professional licenses. Contact our office today if you have received a complaint with a licensing board.