One Pennsylvania Physician’s Story of Addiction and Recovery

The Foundation of the Pennsylvania Medical Society celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Physicians’ Health Program (PHP) by sharing 30 stories of how the program changed people’s lives. Here is an excerpt from one of them:

Dean Steinberg, MD

Oct. 12, 1988: DEA agents invaded my home in search of evidence regarding distribution of controlled substances. More than 70,000 doses were registered to me and not accounted for. That day was the first time I ever admitted (to the agents) that I was a drug addict. They had “other ideas.” This was the end of life as I knew it.

My Pennsylvania medical license and DEA registration were suspended/revoked, as were my hospital privileges. Felony charges were issued three years later. I had to stop using narcotics, and that was not possible.

On Oct. 14, two days later, knowing that my supply was frighteningly low, I did prepare for suicide. I prepared two syringes, one with Midazolam and one filled with Pavulon, and placed them in my top drawer. That same day, an old acquaintance of mine who had previously been in much trouble accepted my call. He gave me a phone number and said, “You do not have to feel this way anymore. Life can be beyond your wildest dreams.”

About the Physicians’ Health Program

The Physicians’ Health Program (PHP), a program of The Foundation of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the charitable arm of PAMED, provides support and advocacy to physicians struggling with addiction or physical or mental challenges. The program also offers information and support to the families of impaired physicians and encourages their involvement in the recovery process.

For 30 years, the PHP has helped more than 3,000 physicians enjoy life without drugs or alcohol and continue to be successful physicians.

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The phone number was for the PHP. I spoke somewhat honestly for the first time about my addiction. They sent a gentleman to my home to escort me to Marworth, a rehabilitation facility. I have been involved with the PHP as a participant, monitor, and committee member for the past 27-plus years, with continuous sobriety since Day One. PHP provided the framework for my recovery, monitoring, and letters of support whenever needed. I owe them my life.

I resumed practicing anesthesia in 1989 and have been professionally successful since that time. This is a direct result of PHP intervention. My story is a miracle. My path would not have been feasible without the support and guidance of PHP.

Access more stories of change from the PHP.

Additional Resources from the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED)

Whether you’re looking for ways to ensure a healthy balance between work and life or you want to learn more about addiction and support services available to physicians, PAMED can help with resources and education:

  • Physician Burnout & Resilience
    •  Physician Burnout: Resolution and Restoration (CME online, on-demand course)
    • Physician Resilience (CME online, on-demand course)
    • Strategies for Addressing Physician Burnout (video of live session held at PAMED’s 2014 House of Delegates and Annual Education Conference)
    • Alleviating Physician Burnout (CME activity)
  • Addiction & Support Services
    • Support Groups for Physicians in Recovery: What Are My Options? (Online, on-demand course developed in collaboration with the Foundation of the Pennsylvania Medical Society)
    • The Foundation’s Physicians Health Programs (PHP) is a program of The Foundation of the Pennsylvania Medical Society that provides support and advocacy to physicians struggling with addiction or physical or mental challenges.