Child Psychiatrist Margaret M. Sprague Loses License (Again) for Substance Abuse

February 25, 2019

On February 6, 2019, the Medical Board of California issued a Cease Practice Order on child psychiatrist Margaret M. Sprague due to having tested positive for alcohol.

The Board originally revoked Dr. Sprague’s medical license on May 19, 2005 due to her addiction to crack cocaine. The Board’s document contains information on the ensuing 14 years, leading to the Cease Practice Order:

In September 2001, the Board received a complaint from another physician reporting that Sprague had a substance abuse problem. Sprague admitted to Board investigators that she’d received treatment for drug addiction in 1999 but relapsed into crack cocaine use six months later.

On December 10, 2001, Sprague completed an application for the Board’s diversion program, admitting she had a cocaine problem for the previous 10 years and was seeking treatment.

In her interview with the diversion program case manager, she reported having taken her first drink at age 13 using variety of hallucinogenic drugs in high school, starting cocaine use at age 21. Her cocaine usage increase during her internship.

Sprague’s husband began divorce proceedings after she returned from drug rehab in 1999. The husband got temporary custody of their child. As part of the custody matter, she was obligated to submit to urine tests and tested positive for cocaine on one occasion, for which she explained she’d been to the dentist the previous day. Another tested positive for alcohol.

Sprague relapsed in January 2002 and was forced to stop practicing medicine. She attended drug rehab again, from February until June 2002.

In July and August 2002, she tested positive for cocaine.

The evaluation committee of the diversion program required Sprague to enter a halfway house treatment program, attend two diversion meetings per week and 90 AA-type meetings in 90 days, and other conditions.

In a September 2002 letter to the diversion program, Sprague explained that she’d learned about a drug called ibogaine, which she stated was found to relieve heroin addicts of their cravings. (Ibogain is a Schedule 1 controlled substance and hallucinogenic which has no legitimate clinical use.) The diversion program did not endorse her decision to try it. She nonetheless went to Rosarito Beach, Mexico for the treatment

Between September 2002 and June 2003, Sprague remained compliant with a recovery plan, living at a sober living recovery home, working as an assistant horse trainer, and attending regular diversion and AA/CA meetings and psychotherapy sessions.

She met with diversion program evaluation committed on June 18, 2003, seeking to be allowed to return to work. A letter from the committed dated July 7 confirmed that they would consider her request when she had met her annual continuing education requirements, at which point she would be allowed to work up to 15 hours a week.

Sprague’s September 2, 2003 urine sample tested positive for cocaine. Sprague told her diversion case manager that shed’ been to Mexico for another ibogaine treatment. She denied using cocaine and said that ibogaine would show up in her urine as cocaine.

On September 8, 2003, Sprague was terminated from the diversion program, which determined her to present a threat to the public health and safety.

At a later hearing on the matter, Sprague could provide no competent evidence that ibogaine could or would cause urine to test positive for cocaine.

The Board’s document stated that Sprague’s demeanor at the hearing could “best be described as alternating between inappropriate laughter and tears…and inspired no confidence that she was either telling the truth or that she has remained sober….”

In November 2016, Sprague petitioned the Board for the reinstatement of her license, providing urine drug screening results that supported her assertion that had remained clean and sober, and other supporting evidence of her fitness.

On January 18, 2019, the Board reinstated Sprague’s license, placing it on probation for five years. Terms of the probation included biological fluid testing, and abstaining from alcohol use.

Some time after January 18 and early February, Sprague tested positive for alcohol.

Source: Cease Practice Order in the Matter of the Decision and Order Against Margaret Melinda Sprague, M.D., Physician’s & Surgeon’s Certificate No. G56228, Case No. 800-2016-028304, Medical Board of California, February 6, 2019; Decision After Non-Adoption in the Matter of the Petition for the Reinstatement of Revoked License by Margaret Melinda Sprague, M.D., Case No. 800-2016-028304, Medical Board of California, December 21, 2018; and Decision in the Matter of the Accusation Against Margaret M. Sprague, M.D. Certificate No. G-56228, No. 10-2001-125460, Medical Board of California, April 19, 2005.

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