An Auckland GP who wrongly prescribed drugs on 74 occasions over a six-year period to cope with her addiction has been fined $5000 and ordered to pay costs of $30,000.
The female doctor - granted name suppression - was also censured with conditions put in place to her medical practice by the Health Practitioner Disciplinary Tribunal.
She was suffering from depression, anxiety and sleeping problems when she reportedly became addicted to medication, including zopiclone and triazolam.
That's when she started prescribing the drugs to herself, sometimes using her former husband and son's name which is against professional medical practice, according to New Zealand's Medical Council.
She was found guilty of writing prescriptions for herself on 60 occasions, writing scripts for herself using her son and former husband's names six times, inappropriately writing medical practice supply orders (MPSOs) on eight counts, consuming drugs without adequate medical oversight and misleading her employer and the medical council by telling them medication had not been picked up when it had.
The doctor was also charged with misleading the pharmacist by saying the MPSOs were for her patients rather than her own use - but this was not established by the tribunal.
Her "inappropriate prescription" started in 2011 when she was working as a hospital doctor. At this time she was under the Medical Council's supervision as concerns had been raised around her performance and emotional state.
After a performance review by the Medical Council her professional certificate was not renewed and she lost her position at the hospital.
However, neither the Medical Council or her employers were aware of her self-prescribing or substance abuse.
Tribunal chair David Carden asked the Professional Conduct Committee counsel Simon Mount why this was not picked up while she was under supervision.
"Surely this could have been nipped in bud then," Carden said.
Mount could not directly answer.
Instead, her self-prescribing wasn't picked until 2012 when the doctor was working at a medical practice and her supervisor reported it to the Medical Council.
In a letter to the Medical Council, the doctor said she was extremely embarrassed and assured them it had not happened before.
She stopped the prescribing then started again for another 18 months.
Yesterday, the tribunal heard evidence from the medical practitioner who spoke of personal hardship she had suffered that led to her substance abuse.
"I was ashamed that I needed that medication, I felt like a failure. However, I took the medications as I knew I needed them to be effective at home and in my work," she said.
The doctor said her stress levels and anxiety continued to grow and became increasingly difficult to cope.
In 2013, she separated from her husband and, as she couldn't get a job in Auckland, she moved to another city, leaving her children in the care of her husband.
She says she started experiencing panic attacks due to being away from her children and soon began self-prescribing again.
The doctor today admitted she lied to the Medical Council and told them about her self-prescribing was a one-off.
Speaking today, the doctor said "I was in a bad headspace.
"It did not occur to me at that time that might affect how other doctors might prescribe to them, or that this has had the potential to possibly cause any harm."
"My thought process wasn't logical to make well-informed decisions," she said while shedding tears.
Her voice shaking while she spoke, she said she hated herself for what she did. "This is not characteristic of me. I am so sorry to my family, to my colleagues for letting them down. I am also sorry that I have let myself down so badly"
In May 2017, the doctor stopped self-prescribing and she says she has made a number of changes to her personal life to cope.
The doctor continues to work as a GP at an Auckland medical clinic three days a week under supervision.