I am writing to commend Globe correspondent Chiara Eisner for bringing attention to a serious problem plaguing health care professionals (“Physician, heal thyself?” Page A1, Feb. 20). Health care providers, along with their patients, are experiencing unprecedented rates of addiction. While patients have limited options for receiving care, providers’ options are restricted even further.
Physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who struggle with opioid use disorders typically are subjected to state-mandated, abstinence-based treatment programs to maintain or regain their professional licenses from state licensing boards. Abstinence-based programs are rarely effective, and the cost of failing to complete them is especially high for health care providers who risk losing their licenses and their livelihoods.
Our society is harmed when state boards revoke a license due to a treatable illness. It is far more difficult to train a new provider than to rehabilitate an existing one. State boards should reevaluate their contracts with private treatment providers and ensure that they are using evidence-based treatment, which, for opioid use disorders, includes medication for addiction treatment. Doing so will protect the public while supporting providers on the road to recovery.
The writer is an associate professor of sociology at Saint Louis University and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She has spent more than a decade studying the opioid crisis’s impact on health care professionals.