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Peggy Barnhardt: Drug testing revisited

Peggy Barnhardt

“Doctors, Pedestals and Drug Test” is the title of a published article I wrote in 1997 chronicling the rates of addiction among medical professionals and the double standard in requiring drug testing for them as opposed to average persons seeking employment.

It pointed out their tragically under-diagnosed and under-treated condition. Armed with this knowledge, we requested our surgical team be drug tested, prompted by four situational factors:

1.     My husband being an addiction therapist, being privy to crucial information concerning abuse;
2.     His impending need for back surgery, then costing $28,000;
3.     The gripping fear that I was experiencing picturing the negative side effects;
4.     The articles published in Journal of the American Medical Association on substance abuse among medical professionals.

My request was granted, but not without fury from the hospital administration, not my doctors, who passed with flying colors.

Now 23 years later, I am sure in the course of time, techniques and medical procedures have advanced amazingly, lessening the anxiety, however, so has drug abuse among doctors, nurses and technicians. Medical professionals account for the highest rates of addiction in the work place.

Today across the country, more than 100,000 of these licensed dedicated caregivers struggle with abuse or addiction, mostly involving narcotics such as Oxycodone and Fentanyl, according to USA Today. Many reasons for this are precursors, accessibility being the main culprit.

Often times upon discovery, exposure is concealed under the guise of internal affairs discretion and loyalties. Help /punishment may not be realized until some catastrophic event takes place that cannot be reconciled.

The opioid crisis has opened a corridor for discussion on many levels, and notable action is being taken as exemplified by the award to the Rowan County Health Department from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to help the PORT Team, but what new trolls lay under the bridge waiting to compromise our healthcare with the legalization of marijuana and its brain altering effects?
The TV series” House” portrays the doctor as a drug-addicted genius able to find a cure at every turn, but in reality, that should be scary.

I want my doctor, clean, dry, in full control of his senses, impulses and memory, so how can we know?

There are agencies to help us out. The National Practitioners Data Bank for Malpractice cases and medical board sanctions, the office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and others.

If major surgery is your only option do not be intimidated your life may depend on it.
Think about it.

Peggy Ann Barnhardt lives in Salisbury.


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