Consequences of Driving Under the Influence

North Dakota Professional Health Program

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a serious crime and is often related to an underlying substance use disorder. Physicians have the same rate of substance use disorders as the general population.

How severe are the consequences of a DUI offense for a physician?
Many physicians have little idea of the severe consequences, both criminal and/or administrative, that could be imposed should they be arrested for DUI. A physician, or any other licensed health professional, who is arrested or convicted for DUI, depending on the state and board, should know that their license and thus their career and livelihood, could be in jeopardy.

Why should a physician with a DUI be evaluated?
The rationale for referring a physician with a DUI for an evaluation is to determine if they have an underlying substance use disorder. This makes sense because someone with a substance use disorder is likely to continue to drink alcohol excessively and have ongoing problems including a potential risk to patients.

Professional Health Programs (PHP)
PHPs were initiated in the 1970’s to promote and carry out early detection, intervention and referral to treatment for a substance use disorder. They also provide ongoing monitoring and management. PHPs exist in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

The ND Professional Health Program, Inc. (NDPHP) is a voluntary, confidential, non- disciplinary monitoring program to support licensees of the ND Board of Medicine experiencing substance use or mental health problems. The program is designed to encourage health professionals to seek a recovery program before their condition harms a patient or damages their careers.

NDPHP facilitates the rehabilitation of healthcare providers who have physical or mental health conditions that could compromise public safety and monitors their recovery.

Conclusion
A DUI is a significant event. According to a study of 658 DUI offenders using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria, 46 percent of first-time DUI offenders had a substance use disorder. It makes sense that physicians with a first DUI should undergo an appropriate and thorough evaluation.