More than half of the 36 Indiana doctors practicing with probationary medical licenses have alcohol or drug addictions, according to an analysis of state records.
An undisclosed number of other physicians are being treated for similar problems through a program sponsored by the Indiana State Medical Association. Doctors with licenses on probation can practice medicine under the specific conditions of the probation.
Randy Stevens, M.D., a Terre Haute family physician who heads the committee overseeing the program, told the Evansville Courier and Press that doctors suffer from addictions at the same rate as the general population. About 13% of Americans are struggling with substance abuse and there are about 21,400 licensed doctors in Indiana.
Doctors who participate in the medical association's substance-abuse treatment program sign a five-year contract and submit to random drug and alcohol screenings. The doctors also must participate in individual and group counseling.
Under state administrative rules, physicians who participate in the medical association's program are not reported to state regulators unless they continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. Fewer than 20% of doctors in the program relapse, Stevens said.
Experts say doctors face special circumstances when trying to fight addiction, including ready access to prescription drugs. Of the 20 doctors on probation for substance-abuse issues, about half were caught writing false prescription to get the drugs for their own use, the Courier and Press reported.