Sunday, January 8, 2017

How fentanyl turned an ER doctor into an addict

Dr. Darryl Gebien was still passed out on the living room couch when they started pounding on his front door at 7 a.m. on a cold January Monday. Looking out the window, he could see the police cars and the black uniformed drug squad officers. One had a battering ram in his hands. Gebien, an emergency room physician in Barrie, Ontario, knew why they were there. He opened the door to meet his fate, standing in the hall in his underwear.

Ten weeks earlier he had arrived for the morning shift at the Royal Victoria Hospital and discovered his 14-year medical career had come to an abrupt end. A local pharmacist had tipped off authorities about the prescription Gebien had written himself for a dozen 75-microgram fentanyl patches, forging the signature of a fellow doctor.
It was the first time Gebien admitted to anyone else that he was an addict—deep in the grip of a painkiller 20 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine. “I was scared shitless, yet at the same time, part of me went, ‘Thank God,’ ” he says. “It was a feeling of relief.”

Gebien checked into a private drug treatment center in Guelph and began his detox hell. By mid-December he was officially clean. Within a week, he had scratched out a prescription on an old pad in another name and he was using again.
“Everything was centered around getting high and avoiding getting sick,” says Gebien. The agreed statement of facts entered into the court record would eventually show that he obtained 445 patches of varying doses via 46 prescriptions to himself and 10 other people.
In the two years that he has been free on $80,000 bail a lot has changed. He's lost his house, car and boat, and declared personal bankruptcy. His wife filed for divorce and moved away with their children. Gebien’s mother died. Although he still holds out hope, it seems unlikely he will ever be allowed to practice medicine again. He’s been drug-free since his second arrest, but his recovery is still under way.

On Dec. 12, 2016, Gebien pleaded guilty to one all-encompassing charge of forgery and another of trafficking. Sentencing will take place on February 17th.

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