Dr. Barry Hardison of Greenville runs a drug-treatment clinic in Muhlenberg County. "What Hardison has to say isn't scientific," Beth Warren of the Louisville Courier Journal reports. "It's personal," because he is a recovering addict.
"Hardison's predicament isn't rare. Other doctors struggle with addiction, but most suffer and recover in the shadows," Warren writes. Hardison, certain he was on the path to death, did something years ago that few do. He reported his own addiction to state medical board officials — the ones who could end his career."
About 10 percent of Americans develop some type of addictive disorder, and the percentage is about the same for doctors, Warren reports: "Hardison, who is 60 and has been sober nearly 25 years, speaks out to help destigmatize the brain disease and spread his message of hope."
Every addict's story is different. Hardison's began with his anxiety as a young doctor in his home county, full of fear that he would make a mistake with a patient, Warren reports: "Each evening, he was relieved to shed his starched white coat, like a bashful kid removing a superhero costume that briefly projected a fictional boldness and strength."
Hardison became "a knowledgeable internal medicine specialist who treated patients with heart and lung diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments," but "About a year after becoming an internist, Hardison developed a high fever and severe aches from the flu. A doctor prescribed Lortab, a popular and potentially addictive opioid that was then considered a harmless and effective pain killer," Warren writes. "In an instant, Hardison's pain dissipated. So did his fears and anxieties."
"I had never felt that normal," he told Warren. So, he "kept taking a couple of pills on the weekends for a reprieve from the pressures of work. Eventually, Hardison's weekend habit swelled to two or three pills a day to quell his insecurities. He became addicted, needing more and more just to avoid being sick. Eventually, Hardison popped 30 to 40 pills just to get through the day."
When he reported himself to the state Board of Medical Licensure, "He was referred to the Hazelden center in Minnesota, which later merged with the Betty Ford Center," Warren reports. "After a month of in-patient treatment, he went back to work. He knew if he relapsed and his commitment to recovery waned, the board could suspend his medical license. . . . Medical board officials watched him for five years, ordering random drug screenings."
"After several years juggling his own recovery and internal medicine, Hardison decided to make a big change," Warren writes. "He would take what he learned from his struggles and help others who are addicted."