The Drug Counselor Who Sold $36K of Morphine to a Cop
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The Drug Counselor Who Sold $36K of Morphine to a Cop


What’s in a name? Well, if you are a drug counselor with a substantial side business selling morphine, then “Payne” is a surname that’s almost too perfect. But life is stranger than fiction for Roberta Payne, an addiction counselor in Gallipolis, Ohio who was busted for selling $36,000 worth of powerful opiates to an undercover agent. Safe to say that this news proves to be—for her boss, her clients and the news-reading world that now has to look at her mug shot—quite Payne-ful.

Payne Likes Pleasure

According to WSAZ, the story is a double whammy of criminal activity and ethical violations by Payne, who allegedly tried to sell drugs to one of her counseling clients—the tip that led to her eventual arrest. And yes, it’s surprising, as we don’t like to think of our mental health professionals as drug dealers but rather crusaders of morality there to remind us of how we could be doing better. The assumption is that those we trust to counsel us are good, strong, mature, healthy, moral, law-abiding citizens and not amoral, unethical, weak, wounded children like we are. But while medical doctors are required to take an ethical oath, the same regulations are not in place for licensed drug and alcohol counselors. And much like the elementary school teacher who gets busted for kiddy porn (or drugs) (or being shitfaced), these people are far from infallible.

Drug Dealers: They’re Just like Us

While Major Crimes Task Force has a field day with this juicy perfect storm of hard news and fallible humanity, I see it more as an example of possible needed changes in health care regulation. Not that I am one to advocate for more government involvement but for those standing up for the fourth amendment on principal alone, I think it’s important to consider that We the People have changed. I don’t see further regulation around adults—whose common sense and moral compass may be at risk due to the phenomenon of addiction—as the walls of Big Brother closing in on us as much as a realistic pre-cautionary measure against a society that seems to be in trouble with itself.

I don’t know what it is—the death of the American dream, the disintegration of family values or Walmart—but we are a country of people who aren’t living but surviving. Many of us (who aren’t on Adderall) feel stuck in our lives—confused by the permission to follow our dreams without the real possibility of the paycheck to pay our rent or car loan. We have children without being able to afford it, live way beyond our means and get hooked on drugs we started taking to battle the pain and depression. One doctor’s predilection for prescribing Vicodin can turn countless people into versions of Roberta Payne. Sure, her situation may be more ironic than others but at the end of the day, she is just another person in pain who made the same bad decisions as her clients—she just happened to be in a position to counsel.

The Solution: More Hoops?

So maybe it’s time we put more requirements on the less credentialed. The reality is that my HMO sends medical students in to administer my pap smears. I blindly chose to be treated by a Primary Care Physician—which feels bad enough—but then I never even get to meet that doctor? Instead, I am expected to be completely fine with grad students fumbling around for 15 minutes trying to find my cervix. And I can’t even rest assured that they have a degree, a license to practice, have taken an oath of ethics, have insurance, have been STD tested. I know nothing about these people yet I am expected to allow them to treat me without a problem? Yeah, that’s a problem. A Payne-ful one at that.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.