Pharmacist Recovery Program

Every even year in October, since 1987, I have had the privilege of renewing my pharmacist license with the California State Board of Pharmacy.  I say privilege, because that is exactly what it is.  If I honor a certain code of conduct, maintain my practice, complete the requisite number of continuing education hours and send them a check, they will do me the honor of renewing my license for another two years.

Just the other day I completed my continuing education for this licensing cycle and sent off my check.  After about two weeks I noticed my check had been cashed; however, I had not yet received my license in the mail.  Fortunately, the California State Board of Pharmacy has an excellent public website where anyone can type in the name of a pharmacist and obtain the current license status of that individual.  I proceeded to do just that and found that my license was clear until October of 2020.

This picture from the state website is public knowledge, available for anyone who searches, so I have absolutely no problem posting it here.  What caught my eye was the term SECONDARY STATUS.  The state must have reconfigured their site to include the secondary status; I do not recall this being listed over the years when I have checked my license in the past. This is an excellent reminder to me of how far I have come.

One Sunday morning, in the Spring of 1996, I phoned the owner of the store that I was working at and informed him of my substance abuse addiction.  I had reached the level of incomprehensible demoralization; my family life, spiritual connection and health were all rapidly deteriorating.  On the phone I told my former boss I was prepared for whatever action he felt was appropriate. 

In his amazing wisdom and kindness he said, “Steve, we’re going to get you some help.”  I met him an hour later and we were on the phone to the state board of pharmacies Pharmacist Recovery Program hotline.  The next day I was enrolled in a 28 day inpatient treatment program, learning the tools of recovery.

Although there were no criminal charges filed, I did make a statement to the board of pharmacy, describing specifically any controlled substances I had taken from the store.  For my negligent actions, the state board of pharmacy placed my license on five years’ probation.   After four and one-half years I appealed and my license was released from probation.

Now, nearly 3 decade later, I am still alcohol and substance free.  My family life is lovely, I am spiritually connected, and I have been practicing pharmacy with a revived passion that can only come from a second chance.  As time passes, I will elaborate on some of the issues I faced during my recovery from substance abuse; however, today I have a different message.

Current studies show that up to 15% of nurses, doctors and pharmacists will misuse or abuse controlled substances, without a prescription, during their career.  Another recent study shows that up to 46% of all pharmacists have used a controlled substance at some point without a prescription.  

We think we can control it...until we can’t.

“Institutional, local, and statewide impaired-physician programs are now available for the active treatment and rehabilitation of impaired healthcare professionals. Many of these programs are also designed to assist the clinician with reentry into clinical practice. Rarely is punitive action taken when the healthcare provider undergoes successful treatment and ongoing follow-up management. Overall recovery rates for impaired healthcare professionals seem to be higher compared with other groups, particularly with intensive inpatient management and subsequent follow-up care.”  see link

The California Pharmacists Recovery Program is an excellent resource.  As stated on the programs web page, “Through this program, the chemically dependent or mentally troubled pharmacist is provided with the hope and assistance required for a successful recovery.”


This article has been published in the December 2018 California State Board of Pharmacy Newsletter; called the SCRIPT.  CLICK HERE to view, then scroll to page 17.