Substance Abuse | PCOM Graduate Medical Education Policies
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Substance Abuse

It is the policy of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine to ensure an institutional environment free of substance abuse by employees, teachers, and students. The policy provides anyone having drug and/or alcohol-related illnesses the opportunity to be treated in an appropriate manner.

  1. To establish and maintain a safe, healthy working environment for all employees and students.
  2. To provide rehabilitation assistance for any individual who seeks such help.

Applies to all employees and students at PCOM.

  • Alcoholism - a chronic and/or progressive illness manifested in repeated and uncontrolled drinking of alcoholic beverages in excess. Alcoholism shall be characterized as a dependence on alcohol to the extent that it interferes with the employee’s health, safety and/or job performance.
  • Drug Dependency - Repeated use of a drug (legal or illegal), characterized by a psychological and physiological dependence on drugs to the extent that it interferes with the health, safety and/or job performance of the employee. 

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine recognizes that Alcohol and Drugs continue to be among the Nation's leading illnesses and a major contributor to impaired job performance morale, institutional accidents, and absenteeism.

Management is responsible to ensure that procedures be followed which assure individuals with substance abuse difficulties that their job security or promotional opportunities are not jeopardized by request and/or referral for diagnosis or treatment.

When an individual's work performance or attendance is unsatisfactory, and the employee is unwilling or unable to correct the situation either alone or with managerial assistance, this will be used as an indicator there may be some cause outside the realm of the job which may be the basis of the poor job performance.

Prohibition against unlawful presence of controlled substances in the workplace

The unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, or use of a controlled substance on PCOM premises, or while engaged in PCOM activities is strictly prohibited, and will result in immediate termination.

Prohibition against the unauthorized presence of alcoholic beverages

The unauthorized or unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, or consumption of alcoholic beverages on PCOM premises, or while engaged in PCOM activities is strictly prohibited, and will result in immediate termination.

Prohibition against working or reporting to work under the influence of legal drugs which affect safety or performance

Except as provided below, use or being under the influence of any legal drug by an employee while on PCOM premises or while engaged in PCOM activities is prohibited to the extent such use or influence may affect the safety of the employee, co-workers, or members of the public, job performance, or the safe or efficient operation of PCOM.

It shall not be a violation of this policy if a person can prove that his or her use of a controlled substance (except for methadone) was prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner who is familiar with the medical history and assigned duties.

The Occupational Health Service (OHS)/Worknet physician may provide an opportunity to discuss a positive test result and clarify if a prescribed medication is involved.

The supervisor's responsibility is to identify persistent work performance or attendance difficulties whether they are continuous or intermittent. The supervisor shall not render diagnosis or cause of such performance difficulties, but shall refer to Human Resources when it is apparent that normal supervision hasn't resolved the performance or attendance concern. Human Resources will refer to OHS (WorkNet).

The employee must share in the responsibility to comply with the referral for diagnosis and prescribed treatment. When an employee refuses to accept diagnosis and treatment or fails to respond to treatment, it shall be recommended that the employee be handled in the same manner as any other illness is handled when the results of such referral or failures continue to adversely affect job performance or attendance.

This policy incorporates provisions of a drug and alcohol free workplace and academic environment practice.

When an employee's job performance or attendance is unsatisfactory, it shall be addressed pursuant to the attendance policy by the supervisor.

When a problem is identified by the supervisor, the supervisor shall not attempt to delve into detail to try to identify the cause(s). The supervisor is to encourage the employee to seek assistance from the Employee Assistance Program that is available to them. If the employee is unable to improve job performance/attendance, the employee shall be required to report to Occupational Health Services for medical evaluation.

The supervisor is reminded to encourage the employee to seek medical evaluation during any point of the progressive counseling process.

Procedures to follow when Supervisor suspects employee is impaired

If an employee is in a suspected impaired condition, the supervisor's obligation is to confront the employee with the decision that the employee seems to be unfit for duty. The supervisor is to offer the employee the following options:

  1. The employee is offered the opportunity and is encouraged to go for medical evaluation at OHS during routine business hours. Human Resources will make arrangements for a WorkNet provider to come on-site.
  2. If the employee decides not to take advantage of the option listed in item one above, the employee is advised to leave the premises and be sent home by cab or by some other supervised method. If the employee wishes, a call will be placed to the employee's home and someone can come and pick the employee up.

Employee Chooses to be Evaluated

  • The employee is to be seen and evaluated by a physician who will determine if the employee is fit or unfit for duty. This means the employee may be required to take a drug test. The tests can include specimens of bodily fluids, such as blood and/or urine specimens, and will screen for legal or illegal substances, including alcohol.
  • The employee has to give permission for the tests. If the employee refuses to permit the tests, the process goes back to "the employee is unfit for duty" and appropriate action is taken per the organization's work rules.
  • The employee agrees to take tests recommended by the OHS physician and the tests confirm an impaired state, then the physician will decide the appropriate next steps. If the decision is for the employee to be sent home, the employee is to report back to work the next business day for a conference in Human Resources. WorkNet will inform the Human Resources department of this outcome.
  • The employee's supervisor and the employee will attend the conference, coordinated by the Human Resources Department. At that time, the employee will be apprised of the nature of his/her unfit condition and offered an opportunity to enter into an evaluation process which may or may not lead to substance abuse treatment.

Employee Refuses to be Evaluated

  • The employee is advised that, by virtue of the fact that the employee has refused to go for evaluation and possible treatment, the employee has taken himself/herself out of the evaluation process.
  • If there is another episode of the employee reporting to work in an apparent unfit condition, the employee will be required to go for a medical evaluation for fitness-for-duty, which may include a drug and alcohol test; and if these are positive, the employee will be entered into the disciplinary system. This could subsequently lead to termination.

Human Resources files shall contain performance and attendance information only.
Whenever an employee is referred for medical treatment of a substance abuse
problem,the supervisor shall be required to ensure the employee's confidentiality is
maintained. Information from the agency providing treatment shall only be released
with the written authorization of the employee.

  • Any breach of confidentiality by the supervisor shall be cause for counseling up to and including termination. Exceptions to confidentiality are those who have the right and need to know.
  • Required preventative treatment programs must also remain confidential.
  1. To recognize drug/alcohol abuse as one of the nation's leading illnesses; and dependency is a major contributor to poor job performance, institutional accidents, and increased absenteeism. Employees are encouraged to seek diagnosis and follow through with prescribed treatment. No employee shall report to work or will work impaired by any substance, drug or alcohol, lawful or unlawful.
  2. To recognize the supervisor’s role is to assist in the operation of the institution’s goals through the assurance of a drug-free work environment.
  3. To recognize the supervisor’s role is to assist an impaired employee in seeking appropriate medical treatment.
  4. Employees who are referred for inpatient care for substance abuse related problems shall be required to apply for a Family Medical Leave. An employee returning from leave shall be returned to active employment pursuant to existing policies and procedures and a signed Return to Work Agreement outlining the expectations for continued employment
  5. To recognize the failure to participate in a treatment program for drug-related problems may result in the termination of employment.
  6. A return to work agreement must be strictly followed by the employee under the penalty of counseling, including termination.
  7. Reasonable cause testing: When there is reasonable cause to suspect that an individual is using substances illegally, the person will be required to be tested for the use of controlled substances. The individual must submit to testing, upon reasonable cause, for the use of illegal controlled substances when requested to do so.
  8. Notification of appropriate third parties, e.g. state professional licensing agencies, will be notified when an employee tests positive for substances covered by this policy.

If an employee suspects another employee and/or practitioner is impaired, the employee should ask the individual to refrain from performing services. If the alleged “impaired” individual agrees to not perform the services, the employee should contact the immediate supervisor for appropriate follow-up. If the individual insists on rendering services, then:

  • The employee should notify the supervisor for immediate assistance.
  • If the supervisor is not available, then the employee should contact Human Resources (if after hours, Chief Human Resources Officer) for assistance.

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine will promote awareness of the effects of drug and alcohol abuse through in-service training. Such training will emphasize the impact of alcohol and drug dependency on performance, the importance of early documentation and detection, intervention and objectivity in handling the dependent employee and the referral procedures to OHS-WorkNet.

There are serious health risks associated with the use of any drug, including alcohol and both illicit, legal and prescription drugs.

Prolonged use and/or abuse of such substances can lead to addictive disorders and chemical dependencies. Serious psychological illnesses, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and compulsive behavior, and others have been shown to be closely associated with drug and alcohol abuse. Alcohol and drug abuse are also major factors in accidental death and injury, particularly automobile accidents.

A wide array of illnesses are associated with alcohol and drug abuse due to the alteration of body chemistry and interference with the body's ability to resist disease. In addition, the damage to vital organ systems such as liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs caused by addictive behaviors represents a major cause of the health problems facing our society. Alcohol and drug abuse has also been shown to threaten the health of the fetus, causing birth defects and, at birth, addiction of infants born to pregnant women engaged in such abuse.

The intravenous drug user who shares needles is also at greater risk of contracting the HIV and hepatitis viruses.

For students and employees, failure to participate in a treatment program for drug or alcohol related problems as discussed in this policy may result, respectively, in permanent dismissal or termination of employment. Further, the institution will impose its disciplinary sanctions in compliance with federal, state and local laws. A violator of the drug and alcohol policies may not only be dismissed from employment or enrollment in the college, but may be referred by the institution for prosecution by law enforcement authorities.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  1. Pennsylvania prohibits the manufacture, distribution, sale, or acquisition by misrepresentation of controlled substances, and the possession of unlawfully acquired controlled substances. There are five categories of controlled substances defined by Pennsylvania law.
  2. First-time violators of the law (the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act, Pa.) face a minimum of 30 days imprisonment, $500 fine (or both), for possession of small amounts or limited distribution of certain controlled substances to 15 years imprisonment, $250,000 fine (or both) for manufacture or distribution of narcotic drugs.
  3. Pennsylvania law specifies a minimum penalty of one year imprisonment for delivery or intent to deliver drugs to a minor. Such offenses committed within l,000 feet of a college or university campus carry an additional two years confinement as a minimum sentence.
  4. Alteration of a prescription, or other misrepresentation to fraudulently procure prescription drugs carry a first-offense penalty (maximum) of one year's imprisonment, $5,000 fine (or both)(The Pharmacy Act of l96l, Pa.)
  5. All sales, transport and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania are controlled by the Pennsylvania Liquor code. The statutes contained in the code prohibit persons under the age of 2l from purchase, consumption, possession, or transporting of liquor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and possessing a false identification card for the purpose of purchasing alcoholic beverages. The penalty for a first offense is suspension of driving privileges for 90 days, a fine of up to $300 and imprisonment for up to 90 days. Upon a second offense, driving privileges may be suspended for one year, and violators may be imprisoned for up to one year and face a fine of $500.
  6. It is illegal to furnish alcoholic beverages to a minor, which includes selling, giving, or allowing a minor to possess alcoholic beverages on the accused's property. First offense violations are subject to a $l,000 fine; $2,500 for each subsequent violation, and imprisonment of up to one year for any violations.
  7. Driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in Pennsylvania is illegal and police officers may arrest suspected violators without a warrant. Such an offense is a misdemeanor and violators are subject to 30 day's imprisonment (the Pa. Vehicle Code, amended l977).
Federal Law
  1. Federal penalties for the manufacture, use, possession, and distribution of controlled substances are defined by The Controlled Substances Act, which classifies controlled substances into categories, similar to Pennsylvania law. Maximum penalties include life imprisonment, a $4,000,000 fine (or both).
  2. Distribution of even a small amount of marijuana or simple possession of a controlled substance carries a maximum one year imprisonment, $l,000 - $l00,000 fine (or both), for the first offense. Subsequent violations carry more severe penalties. Federal law also specifies forfeiture of vehicles, boats, or aircraft used to transport a controlled substance.
  3. Penalties for distribution of controlled substances to minors results in doubling or tripling of the penalties for distribution of similar quantities of such substances to persons over l8. Also similar to Pennsylvania law, The Controlled Substances Act imposes double penalties for distribution offenses committed within l,000 feet of a school or college campus.
  4. Special penalties are imposed for possession of crack cocaine. A first conviction for a possession of a quantity of crack cocaine in excess of five grams carries a mandatory sentence of five to twenty years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000
  5. Persons convicted of possession or distribution of a controlled substance may be denied federal benefits, such as student loans, grants, contracts, and professional licenses for one to five years.


The following is a partial listing of Philadelphia area resources to assist students and employees in locating appropriate assistance for treatment of an alcohol or substance abuse problems:

New Jersey

Hampton Behavioral Center
Rancocas Road
Westhampton Township, NJ 08073


Addiction 24-Hour Helpline

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous

Women in Transition

Women Against Abuse

Pennsylvania Medical Society
777 East Park drive - P. O. Box 8820

Harrisburg, PA l7l05-8820
(717) 558-7750

Mercy Philadelphia Hospital
In-Patient Care
501 S. 54th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Lankenau Medical Center
Behavioral Health Services
100 E. Lancaster Avenue Wynnewood, PA 19096

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
Help Line

Woodside Hall Outpatient Addiction Treatment Center
4200 Monument Road
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Main Number (24 hours) 215-581-3757

Eagleville Hospital
In-Patient Care
100 Eagleville Road
Eagleville, PA 19403