NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Dr. Stephen Loyd knew what it was like to live a double life. As a doctor from east Tennessee, he focused on how to improve the health of others, but behind closed doors, he was secretly needing help himself.
Loyd first began abusing opioids in 2000 to ease his stress, anxiety and depression while working at the hospital. His addiction spiraled out of control in a matter of three years.
"I was using the equivalent of about 500 milligrams of Oxycontin a day, so if you put that in Vicodin or Lortab terms, that's 100 pills a day," Dr. Loyd told NewsChannel 5. "I got it [90 pills of oxycodone] at 8 o'clock in the morning and by 5 o'clock that afternoon the bottle was empty."
His staff knew something was wrong as his personality changed. Loyd stole drugs from medicine cabinets, received prescriptions from other doctors and took medication from patients intending to dispose them.
"I disposed of it. I just didn't dispose of it where it was supposed to be. If I come into your house and go to your bathroom and you have old pills in your medicine cabinet, I left with them," Loyd said.
He managed to get away under the shroud of having the title of doctor. Eventually it caught up to him, breaking down in tears where no one could see.
"I went to bed half the nights praying I wouldn't die and the other nights praying I would," he recalled.
His story is part of a dark reality quietly targeting medical professionals not just in Tennessee but across the country. It is a topic being highlighted in a recently released report by Protenus on drug diversion involving health care workers.
In 2018, more than 47 million doses of legally prescribed drugs were stolen, a 126 percent increase from the year before, according to the report.
The study found that one-third of all reported incidents happened at hospitals or medical centers, with doctors and nurses responsible 67 percent of the time.
The report further stated that $454 million worth of drugs were stolen in the country last year, with majority of them involving opioids.
"It's hard to get a true feel of how bad it is because of the secrecy aspect of it," Loyd said.
Loyd has been clean for 15 years. While he faced consequences, he managed to keep his job and license and live a life more rewarding than before.
He worked as the director for the state's Mental Health Abuse and Substance Services and is now the medical director for the addiction treatment center JourneyPure.
However, he knows it is not the same for everyone in his position. The issue is far worse because not everyone comes forward out of fear of losing their careers.
"That doesn't happen for the normal person. Immediately they lose their job and now they find it hard to get a job when they get out because people find out they have a substance abuse issue," Loyd added.
Nevertheless, Loyd pushes for other people to seek help and find a community that would guide them along their journey.
"There is help available and you don't have to lose everything. I'm a miracle but I'm a miracle because of the people who helped me," he said.
To learn more about JourneyPure, click on this link.