When a Pharmacist Falls from Grace

Drug addiction is one thing, but diverting that poison onto the streets when pharmacists are told in no uncertain terms not to do so isn't looked upon so forgivingly.

Many a preceptor offered me the sage advice to not use the kitchen as a bathroom. They said it in a more familiar and unprintable vernacular, but their message was the same: don’t do anything that will get you fired, be faithful to your company, and more importantly, be faithful to your profession.

To a pharmacist, the message is even clearer: don't develop a drug habit, but if you do, don't be high on the job and don't use the company's drugs.

When this exact scenario allegedly happened to a pharmacist I used to work with, I naturally felt upset. Actually, allegedly is too soft a word, because the guy turned himself in.

According to news sources, the pharmacist went to work smashed out of his mind on hydrocodone, and his boss walked in and found him slurring his words. The level of jeopardized patient safety in that situation simply nauseates me. I don't like taking cough medicine on a day when I'm feeling sick, because I don't want to be the least bit hazy while I'm checking prescriptions. So, I couldn’t even dream of being high on hydrocodone, which is compounded by the fact that the medication was stolen.

If pharmacists in this situation plead addiction and pledge a lifetime of sobriety, then they might not only stay out of jail, but also possibly keep their licenses. My Alcohol and Chemical Dependency professor, Ken Dickinson, RPh, founded Secundum Artem Reaching Pharmacists with Help (SARPH), a 12-step recovery program designed specifically for pharmacists with addiction issues to get sober and possibly practice again. There are no definites with such an infraction and the levels of severity.

Drug addiction is one thing, but diverting that poison onto the streets when we are told in no uncertain terms not to do so isn’t looked upon so forgivingly. Good luck staying out of jail if you decide to go that route.

I have learned a lot from George Lucas through Master Yoda over the years. As he told Luke Skywalker, "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny."

I know all too well. There was once a time when I had a doc who wrote a hydrocodone script for me anytime I needed a refill, which was about 3 times a year. Even though I had a legitimate prescription, could I have gotten sloppy over time and put myself in the same predicament as my colleague? Absolutely.

However, a manic episode, a hospitalization, and a well-timed recovery program straightened me out. I am happy to say that I haven't ingested a single hydrocodone tablet since that time, other than during an incredibly painful shoulder surgery.

It kills me when a pharmacist falls from grace, but there is always a chance at redemption. I hope my sibling in the craft finds it.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, is a lucky man.