Massachusetts Medical Society: Episode 17: Looking for Relief in the Wrong Places

Episode 17: Looking for Relief in the Wrong Places

Looking for Relief in the Wrong Places

Course Overview

Dr. Steve Adelman, founder of MedPEP and the former medical director of the physician health program in Massachusetts, has a frank discussion with Marie and Les about physicians’ use of addictive substances like alcohol and marijuana. In this era of stress, burnout, and medical “battle fatigue,” doctors may be especially susceptible to numbing themselves with substances that have the potential to impede their performance. Steve’s perspective is that physicians are safety-sensitive professionals who are responsible for the health of the public. Consequently, they have an ethical obligation to stay above reproach by avoiding problematic use of psychoactive substances. Physicians with a history of problematic substance use should abstain; others should consider practices like “clean margin drinking,” a minimalistic approach that is fleshed out with specifics. Marie acknowledges that sometimes physicians cross the line in the name of celebration or stress relief. Steve points out that physicians are at risk because they have easy access to controlled substances and may also resist seeking professional help despite needing it. Marie and Steve discuss a specific case involving a patient whose therapist appeared impaired during a psychotherapy session. A guiding principle is that the safety of the public should never be compromised. Les asks Steve to comment on the use of marijuana by physicians. Steve focuses on the downside, advising licensed health professionals to avoid marijuana altogether. He links this MedPEP episode to earlier podcasts by suggesting that health professionals should avoid misusing substances; instead, we should focus on improving our self-care with diet, exercise, meditation, and better work/life balance, all of which may counter personal and professional burnout, and preserve our careers.  

Learning Objectives

  • Help physicians evaluate the choices they make to manage stress and diminish fatigue, considering how different decisions may impact personal well-being, patient care, and safety.
  • Review the need for improved self-care and for avoiding substance misuse.


Steve Adelman, MD 
I’ve worked as an effective and empathic leader in a major academic medical center, on the board and in the delivery system of a large multispecialty medical group, and at the helm of a nationally renowned physician health program, Physician Health Services, Inc.  I trained at Harvard (summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa), Penn Medical School, and Harvard’s McLean Hospital (chief resident). I’m an experienced medical leader, as well as a seasoned psychiatrist, a highly-regarded addiction expert, and a practicing thought leader in physician coaching.

Course Fees

Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) Member: Free       
Non-MMS Member: Free             
Allied Health Professionals: Free



CME Credit

1.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™

Accreditation Statement

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of the Massachusetts Medical Society and Physician Health Services, Inc. The Massachusetts Medical Society is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians. 

AMA Credit Designation Statement

The Massachusetts Medical Society designates this enduring material for a maximum of 1.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

This activity meets the criteria for the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine for risk management study.

National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
Physician Assistants may claim a maximum of 1.00 Category 1 credit for completing this activity. NCCPA accepts AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ from organizations accredited by ACCME or a recognized state medical society.

Exam/Assessment: Please respond to the reflective statement at the end of the course to receive AMA PRA Category 1 Credits.

 MOC Approval Statement
Through the American Board of Medical Specialties ("ABMS") ongoing commitment to increase access to practice relevant Maintenance of Certification ("MOC") Activities through the ABMS Continuing Certification Directory , this activity  has met the requirements as an MOC Part II CME Activity (apply toward general CME requirement) for the following ABMS Member Boards:

Allergy and Immunology
Family Medicine
Medical Genetics and Genomics
Nuclear Medicine
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Plastic Surgery
Preventive Medicine
Psychiatry & Neurology
Thoracic Surgery

Activity Term

Original Release Date: January 24, 2019        
Review Date: January 24, 2021           
Termination Date: January 24, 2022

System Requirements

Windows, XP, Vista, 7, 8  
Mac OSX 10.6 higher

Most modern browsers including:   
Firefox 18.0+  
Chrome 26+  
Safari 5+  
Flash player is required for some Online CME courses.
iOS devices beginning with OS version 5 or higher (includes, iPhone, iPad and iTouch devices)  
Android devices including tablets and phones.  
Windows RT and tablets on Windows 8 are also supported. 


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