February 19, 2013

Identifying addiction in the medical community

The health care community in the state of Maine is lobbying for new legislation to assure early  identification and discipline of medical practitioners with substance abuse problems.

The Bangor Daily News published a report Feb. 19, stating that the legislation seeks to update Maine law governing the reporting and discipline of medical professionals suspected of having substance abuse problems.

The bill would require state medical licensing boards to investigate any report of alcohol or drug use by a physician that could indicate a substance abuse disorder, the newspaper reported.

Under existing law, onloy reports of “habitual drunkenness” and drug addiction prompt investigation by state licensing officials.

Rep. Jane Pringle, D-Windham, sponsored the bill at the request of the Maine Medical Association, which represents about 3,800 physicians, medical residents and students in the state. Pringle, a retired primary care physician, said the legislation’s updated terminology, replacing the term “habitual drunkenness” with “use of alcohol or drugs that may indicate a substance abuse disorder,” appropriately reflects that substance abuse is a disease.

“This dated language in the statute is stigmatizing and offensive to many in the medical community, particularly if they suffer from one of these conditions,” said Andrew MacLean, deputy executive vice president for the Maine Medical Association.

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