The Ohio Medical Board’s “slip rule” and when to contact the Ohio Medical Board if you relapse

Happy New Year!

I am often asked what Ohio physicians who are under probation with the Ohio Medical Board should do, if they relapse on drugs and/or alcohol or if they believe they have inadvertently been exposed to alcohol or a drug that may cause impairment.

If you are licensed to practice medicine in the State of Ohio, the Ohio Medical Board may take an action against your professional license if it has reason to believe that you are impaired in your ability to practice medicine (OAC 4731-16-01).  In such event, typically, a physician will enter into a Step I Consent Agreement with the Ohio Medical Board in which the physician’s medical license is suspended while they seek treatment for substance or alcohol abuse or addiction.

Once the physician has completed treatment and the Ohio Medical Board determines they are fit to resume practice,  the physician will be offered a Step II Consent Agreement, which reinstates the physician’s medical license subject to probationary terms.  Once a physician’s license is reinstated, they are generally placed on probation for five years. During probation, they are typically required to maintain abstinence, submit to random drug and/or alcohol testing, complete aftercare treatment, attend AA (12 Step) meetings, and complete other monitoring conditions.

During probation, the physician is not permitted to consume any alcohol and/or ingest drugs (except as prescribed).  The physician will be subjected to random alcohol and/or drug testing that is highly sensitive and can detect even incidental exposure.

What should the physician who is under probation with the Ohio Medical Board do if they consume alcohol or a drug to which they have not been prescribed or  believe they have been inadvertently exposed to these substances? 

A relapse is defined in Ohio Administrative Code 4731-16-01(B) as follows:

“Relapse” means any use of, or obtaining for the purpose of using, alcohol or a drug or substance that may impair ability to practice, by someone who has received a diagnosis of and treatment for chemical dependency or abuse, except pursuant to the directions of a treating physician who has knowledge of the patient’s history and of the disease of addiction, or pursuant to the direction of a physician in a medical emergency. An instance of use that occurs during detoxification treatment or inpatient or residential treatment before a practitioner’s disease of addiction has been brought into remission does not constitute a relapse.”

If a physician relapses on alcohol or a drug to which they have not been prescribed, the Ohio Medical Board may take further action against their professional license, including but not limited to suspending their license and/or requiring them to seek additional treatment.  However, if the physician is experiencing a first time relapse by consuming alcohol (or a drug) for less than one day, the Ohio Medical Board may determine that it will not take further action, if the physician immediately seeks treatment, self reports to the Ohio Medical Board within 48 hours of the relapse and follows all other requirements of OAC 4731-16-02(D).

OAC 4731-16-02, commonly known at the “slip-rule”, may prevent a physician from having their Ohio medical license suspended or being subjected to further discipline by the Ohio Medical Board in the event of a relapse. However, the physician must meet all of the requirements of the rule.  If you are a physician who is subject to monitoring by the Ohio Medical Board for alcohol or drug addiction or abuse, you should be familiar with the requirements of OAC 4731-16. http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4731-16

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

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