The Impact of Substance Abuse on Professional Licensing
Licensed professionals are no different than anyone else when it comes to suffering from substance abuse problems. In fact, professionals such as doctors and lawyers are statistically more likely to develop substance abuse problems than others. Not only can alcohol or drug abuse harm your personal life, but it can also do irreparable damage to your career. If you are a licensed professional worried about a substance abuse problem, a professional license defense attorney can help you protect your career.
Ways That Substance Abuse Can Harm Your Career
Many people in recovery will tell you that their alcohol and drug use was under control until it wasn’t. Unfortunately, many people do not get the help they need until they have done considerable harm to themselves and their careers. Not only does their substance abuse harm their physical health, but many addicts will experience severe depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. As their lives spiral out of control, their alcohol and drug use tends to impact their career in the following ways:
- Criminal charges such as DWI, public intoxication, or drug possession
- Embezzlement and other financial malfeasance
- Impaired judgment in providing client or patient services
- Compromised trust with clients or patients due to inability to perform
- Missed deadlines, appointments, and other failures
Once your substance abuse begins to compromise your service or professionalism, it can quickly lead to disciplinary action. If you are worried about how your substance abuse may affect your license, a professional license defense attorney can help you get out in front of the issue.
Substance Abuse Can Harm Your License Even if You Keep It “Personal”
Make no mistake – your substance abuse could cause issues with your license even if you keep it out of the workplace. Allegations of personal misconduct due to being impaired can lead to an investigation and subsequent discipline. Drug or alcohol-related criminal charges can, of course, result in disciplinary action even if the incident occurred outside of work. The bottom line is that substance abuse can jeopardize your license even when you have kept it out of your professional life.
The Consequences You Face
Different professions have different standards and different penalties, but they all essentially use the same spectrum:
- Reprimands, either public or private, for minor infractions
- Suspension of your license, meaning that you will not be able to practice for a specified period of time
- Revocation of your license, which is typically permanent
Depending on the severity of the problem and the circumstances of your case, the potential penalties you face can range from a private reprimand to revocation of your license. For example, a public intoxication charge that arose from attending a sporting event may result in only a minor punishment. A DWI charge where you caused injury to another driver may be dealt with more harshly.
Cases where the professional was impaired at work or their substance abuse otherwise impacted their professional services often receive the harshest consequences. That said, many professions are beginning to give instances of personal misconduct greater scrutiny in response to shifting attitudes when it comes to certain types of misconduct.
If you have a substance abuse problem that has led to disciplinary action, it is important to understand that you have options. You do not have to admit that you violated your profession’s standards or rules of ethics. An experienced professional license defense attorney can discuss your options and work with you to protect your license.
What Can You Do?
If you have a drug or alcohol problem, the most important thing to do is to seek help. Getting the help you need can not only save your career but also save your life. Whether you need in-patient treatment or an outpatient program, the sooner you get help, the sooner you can get your life back on track.
Many people worry about what will happen to their license if they admit that they have a problem or seek treatment. Some professions provide confidential services to their members that help them get the treatment they need while also helping them navigate the potential professional ramifications. Lawyers, for example, can reach out to Lawyers Helping Lawyers. Other professionals should research what resources are available to them through their licensing organization.
Lastly, a professional license defense attorney can help you find resources and navigate the potential ramifications if you have a substance abuse problem that you are worried could impact your license. Because they are a lawyer, they have a duty of confidentiality that prevents them from disclosing any information you give them. This can be helpful for getting out in front of the problem before you receive a complaint.