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Mandatory Naltrexone Treatment Prevents Relapse Among Opiate-Dependent Anesthesiologists Returning to Practice

Merlo, Lisa J. PhD, MPE; Greene, William M. MD; Pomm, Raymond MD

doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31821852a0
Original Research

Objective: Anesthesiologists with opioid use disorders are at high risk for relapse. In 2005, the impaired professionals monitoring program of the State of Florida implemented a policy whereby anesthesiologists referred for opiate use disorders were contractually obligated to take naltrexone for 2 years. Naltrexone ingestion was witnessed and verified via random urine drugs screens or administered via intramuscular injection.

Method: Charts were reviewed for the 11 anesthesiologists who underwent mandated pharmacotherapy with naltrexone, and 11 anesthesiologists who began monitoring immediately before implementation of this policy.

Results: Eight of 11 anesthesiologists who did not take naltrexone experienced a relapse on opiates. Only 1 of 11 anesthesiologists experienced a relapse on opiates after taking naltrexone, whereas another relapsed on an inhalant (nitrous oxide). It is noteworthy that 5 of the 11 anesthesiologists who took naltrexone had relapsed before naltrexone treatment, and 7 of the 11 anesthesiologists who did not take naltrexone experienced multiple documented relapses. Only 1 of the 11 anesthesiologists who did not take naltrexone successfully returned to the practice of anesthesiology. This individual suffered primarily from alcohol dependence, and suspected opiate abuse was never verified. Others who attempted return to anesthesiology (n = 7) suffered a relapse. In comparison, 9 of the 11 anesthesiologists who took naltrexone have returned to the practice of anesthesiology without a relapse (as verified by continued random urine and hair testing).

Conclusion: Mandatory naltrexone treatment may provide anesthesiologists with an additional safeguard to successfully return to work.

From the University of Florida (LJM, WMG), Gainesville, FL; Washington University (JLM), St. Louis, MO; and Professionals Resource Network, Inc (RP), Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Lisa J. Merlo, PhD, MPE, McKnight Brain Institute, Box 100183, Gainesville, FL 32610. E-mail:

This research was supported by the Professionals Resource Network, Inc., an integral arm of the Florida Medical Association. Dr. Merlo was supported in part by NIDA training grant T32-DA07313-10 (PI = Cottler).

Received September 08, 2010

Accepted March 02, 2011

© 2011 American Society of Addiction Medicine