Six lessons from state physician health programs to promote long-term recovery

J Psychoactive Drugs. Jan-Mar 2012;44(1):72-8. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2012.660106.


The success of the nation's state physician health programs (PHPs) provides important new evidence on the potential for dramatically reducing relapse and promoting long-term recovery from substance use disorders. This article summarizes the findings of the first national PHP study and outlines six lessons learned from this model of care management: (1) zero tolerance for any use of alcohol and other drugs; (2) thorough evaluation and patient-focused care; (3) prolonged, frequent random testing for both alcohol and other drugs; (4) effective use of leverage; (5) defining and managing relapses; and (6) the goal of lifelong recovery rooted in the 12-Step fellowships. PHPs are a part of a new paradigm of care management that includes the programs developed for commercial pilots (HIMS) and for attorneys (CoLAP). Elements of this model of care have been used with a dramatically different patient population, and with similar success, in the criminal justice system in HOPE Probation and 24/7 Sobriety. The authors review these programs and discuss implications for extending elements of the new paradigm more widely.

MeSH terms

  • Criminal Law
  • Humans
  • Patient Care Management
  • Physicians
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*