Controversial Addiction Specialist Surrenders Medical License Over Alleged Sexual Misconduct

By Paul Gaita 04/08/16

Dr. Robert Friedman, who led the way in prescribing Vivitrol, has garnered negative attention for his habit of maintaining close personal relationships with patients.

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Controversial Addiction Specialist Surrenders Medical License Over Alleged Sexual Misconduct
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A doctor in Hyannis, Mass., who generated both praise and controversy for prescribing a variety of medications to help opiate addicts, has agreed to end his practice as allegations surface that he traded prescription drugs for sex. Dr. Robert Friedman, who treated addicts on Cape Cod for more than a decade, surrendered his medical license on Monday after the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine called him in for a meeting, asking for information about his patients.

Friedman voluntarily turned over his license on the advice of his attorney, knowing that the Drug Enforcement Administration had been investigating him "for months," he told the Cape Cod Times. He is hoping that the investigation will clear him of any wrongdoing. As of Tuesday, his former employer, Hyannis Family Medical Care, cut all ties with the doctor. Friedman told the Times himself that the board’s investigation pertained to “sex with patients for drugs,” but he maintains that he did nothing wrong. 

For more than a decade, Friedman has prescribed drugs like Vivitrol for patients who are dependent on heroin or prescription opioids. The drug is an opioid blocker that prevents the user from experiencing the “high” associated with opioid drugs, and is non-habit-forming. As such, it has been cited as a new and effective form of combating addiction to drugs and even alcohol, though some medical professionals are reluctant to describe it as a “magic bullet” for addicts.

In addition to Vivitrol, Friedman also prescribed a number of addictive drugs like Xanax, Klonopin or Adderall to help patients with their addiction issues. That decision proved controversial among medical professionals and patients alike, and cost him his job with Gosnold, the largest addiction treatment facility on Cape Cod, in 2013.

Friedman also garnered negative attention for his habit of maintaining close personal relationships with his patients via his personal cell phone and on Facebook. He acknowledged that these methods may have contributed to the allegations of sexual misconduct, but also added that they were necessary to facilitate the sort of relationship that was necessary for lasting addiction treatment. 

“All I can say is, [the allegations are] probably a result of my practice style,” he said. “My style is to make people feel comfortable.” While Friedman is being investigated, his 400 patients have been transferred to other practitioners at Hyannis Family Medical Care. 

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.