MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The government’s case against a Montgomery doctor goes into its second week.
Dr. Richard Stehl is indicted on 113 counts including drug distribution, money laundering and health care fraud.
The government is calling former patients and an expert witness in an effort to show the jury Stehl was prescribing dangerous amounts of controlled substances to patients who didn't have a medical need for the drugs.
A former patient took the stand Monday stating she developed drug dependency issues under Stehl's care, describing the high costs, both physically and fiscally, citing she almost lost her family as a result.
The witness said she was having difficultly making an appointment with her current doctor, saw a sign for Stehl's practice, and made an appointment. At this time she was taking Adderall, a stimulant for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, which is also a controlled substance. She stated she's been undergoing treatment for this diagnosis for decades. At the time of her first appointment with Stehl she said she didn't receive a physical exam and when she offered to get her medical records - he declined.
While she was written the prescription for Adderall at the first appointment, she was required to make a monthly office visit and receive injections to get a refill.
“If you refused a shot, you wouldn’t get your prescriptions,” the witness stated.
She received a B-12 injection and a steroid shot at every visit without an explanation why - despite alerting Stehl of a steroid allergy.
After years of this practice, the witness said she gained a substantial amount of weight and ended up in the hospital.
“I went to Baptist East and they said all the medications were making me ill,” she testified.
When she reported this back to Stehl at the following office visit, he said they were wrong. At this point she was receiving prescriptions for Adderall, Xanax, and a sleeping medication.
The witness told the jury as the dependency built she was having memory lapses, stating Stehl never discussed the dangers of these drugs. She called the practice “speedballing,” which describes the dangerous combination of mixing a stimulant like an amphetamine with a depressant like Xanex or a benzodiazepine. The expert testified that this practice could cause respiratory depression, where an individual could quit breathing.
The amount of prescriptions and usage increased following a particularly vulnerable period of her life while caring for a parent who was in hospice treatment.
At the height of her dependency, she received prescriptions for Phentermine, Adderall, Belsomra, Ambien, and hydrocodone syrup to help her sleep - despite not having a cough. During this time she would abuse the drugs. When she ran out, she testified of severe withdrawals prompting days of vomiting, headaches, and extreme sickness.
Aside from the prescribing habits, the witness testified that she knew more about Stehl’s personal life than she should, stating he volunteered information that wasn’t appropriate for a doctor-patient relationship. She also said he touched her inappropriately on her upper thigh and traced down her arm; neither were part of a medical exam.
An erratic situation with Stehl in 2018 forced her to step away from his practice. The witness stated she’s currently on three prescriptions: two maintenance medications and one prescription for generalized anxiety disorder, stating she feels fine. The former patient attributed her health issues to the former medications.
Stehl has maintained his innocence since his arrest. The government could rest their case at the end of the week, giving the defense an opportunity to put on their case.