Whether it involves alcohol, prescription drugs, or street drugs, addiction does not discriminate. As a result, many professionals, especially those in high-stress positions, succumb to addiction as easily as non-professionals. Addiction can adversely affect your relationships, criminal history, and job. However, when you are a professional whose career requires a license, addiction also can impact your ability to maintain your career successfully. 

Whether you are currently using, seeking rehabilitation, or well along in your recovery efforts, you still may risk disciplinary action against your license, depending on your situation. Professionals facing investigations by their licensing boards into their drug and alcohol usage should be proactive and immediately look to an experienced professional license defense attorney for assistance.

Addiction and Professional Licenses in General

Most professionals are governed by specific laws and rules that apply only to their professions. Some rules and laws specifically provide that alcoholism, drug addiction, and related conditions are grounds for disciplinary action by the licensing board for that profession. Other laws and rules are silent on the issue, but they contain broad prohibitions on “unprofessional” conduct or “moral turpitude.” These broader prohibitions arguably could include substance abuse as a ground for disciplinary action. 

Furthermore, addiction often is coupled with an arrest or criminal charge for DWI or a similar charge, which may be a separate ground for discipline under the rules or laws that govern a specific profession. Although an isolated arrest or criminal charge is not always indicative of addiction, it can be part of a larger pattern of substance abuse in some cases. As a result, an arrest, incarceration, nor criminal conviction also may act as grounds for discipline, depending on the language of the applicable laws.  

Addiction and Doctors

Tex. Occ. Code § 164.051 establishes the grounds for denial or disciplinary action against a person’s medical license. One of those grounds is when a physician cannot practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients because of drunkenness or excessive use of drugs, narcotics, chemicals, or another substance. Furthermore, Tex. Occ. Code § 164.052(4) prohibits physicians from using alcohol or drugs in an intemperate manner that could endanger a patient’s life, in the board’s opinion. Various other prohibited practices relate to writing false or fictitious prescriptions for dangerous drugs and controlled substances, which is also a common sign of drug addiction. 

The Texas Medical Board (TMB) can take various disciplinary actions against a physician based on addiction, depending on the circumstances. However, those options include requiring the physician to abstain from alcohol and drugs and undergo substance abuse treatment as conditions of keeping a license. 

Addiction and Nurses

Tex. Occ. Code § 301.452(b)(9) states that nurses are subject to disciplinary action if they engage in intemperate use of alcohol or drugs that the BON determines could or does endanger a patient. “Intemperate use” refers to practicing nursing or being on duty or call while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Furthermore, Tex. Occ. Code § 301.4521 gives the BON the authority to request that a nurse undergo an evaluation if it has probable cause to believe that the nurse cannot practice nursing with reasonable skill and safety to patients because of a chemical dependency or abuse of drugs or alcohol. 

However, unlike some other professions, the BON has developed a Disciplinary Sanction Policy on Substance Use Disorders and Other Alcohol and Drug-Related Conduct. In this policy, the BON stresses that not all situations are the same and that substance abuse disorders are treatable conditions. The policy states that nurses in stable recovery may safely treat patients under some conditions. However, it also states that it may be necessary to deny licensure or remove nurses from active practice in some cases until it is safe for the nurse to practice. In addition, BON may demand evidence of sobriety in the form of drug testing, letters of recommendation, evaluations from employers, and signed logs of group attendance. Even after the nurse returns to active practice, BON may require drug screens and monitoring for some period. 

Addiction and Dental Professionals 

State law governing dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants specifically lists addiction to alcohol or drugs as a general ground for disciplinary action. Tex. Occ. Code § 263.002(a)(7) permits the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) to discipline dental professionals if they are “addicted to or habitually intemperate in the use of alcoholic beverages or drugs or has improperly obtained, possessed, used, or distributed habit-forming drugs or narcotics.” More specifically, addiction can be grounds for a warning, reprimand, fine, administrative penalty, or suspension or revocation of a dental license. 

Addictions and Behavioral Health Professionals

The Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (TBHEC) oversees various professionals, including:

Tex. Occ. Code § 502.351(3) states that marriage and family therapists “shall” be subject to disciplinary action by the TBHEC if they “use[s] drugs or alcohol to an extent that affects the license holder’s professional competence.” A nearly identical provision applies to psychologists under Tex. Occ. Code § 501.401, but no similar provision applies to licensed professional counselors or social workers.

Defend Yourself Against Disciplinary Proceedings Involving Your Professional License

Facing your addiction can be very challenging, and the situation becomes even more complex when you potentially could lose your ability to do your job. However, you can take steps to challenge your disciplinary proceedings by contacting a professional license defense lawyer at Bertolino LLP, for advice today. Make an appointment by calling (512) 515-9518 or contact us online to see how we can help.

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