Former patient testifies doctor fueled her pill addiction

Federal pill mill trial enters second week

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - During a patient’s 12-year battle with addiction, she said she’d taken it all: amphetamines, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and opioids. During the course of her substance abuse the constant was her doctor - Richard Stehl.

Stehl is standing trial for 113 counts of drug distribution, money laundering, and health care fraud. During week two of the trial, the government continues to call former patients to testify.

This now-former patient told the jury she started seeing Stehl when she was 18 years old and continued for the better part of 12 years. She was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder at a young age. At 18, Stehl prescribed her Adderall, Xanax, and pain medication.

While the witness testified that she's been clean and sober for 16 months, she's been an addict for 12 years. That addiction initially revolved around Xanax.

“90 pills were gone in three days,” she testified. “So yeah, I had a problem.”

At the height of her addiction she was prescribed Xanax, Adderall, Methadone, and pain medication.

When questioned about any personal contact with Stehl, the witness quickly said it’s something she didn’t want to discuss. As the government continued to examine the witness, she revealed Stehl kissed her in an exam room and asked her to come to his apartment off the Eastern Bypass to pick up a prescription. She said they kissed, something she described as “heavy petting.”

“It’s not something I’m proud of,” she said. “Anytime an addict is addicted to something, they think things are okay that aren’t.”

The witness said she would do anything to get her prescriptions, even if that meant giving in to his sexual advances. Each time, she received a prescription.

Stehl looked down at his paper, taking notes during her testimony.

While under his care, a complaint was lodged against Stehl with the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners. Stehl asked her to go make a statement to the Board to say nothing inappropriate happened between them. She complied, testifying that she told Stehl he would have to make her copays and continue writing her prescriptions going forward.

When a prosecutor asked why she did that for Stehl, the witness said, “I didn’t want to get in trouble…because I was getting what I wanted.”

Years later she moved to Nashville, Tennessee where she was able to become sober. After coming back to Montgomery, she saw Stehl and fell back into her former drug habits.

The government asked her whether Stehl ever required her to take a drug test. She responded once, recalling he told her it was something he had to do.

“I told him, ‘You know I’m going to melt the cup right,’” she testified, stating she expected to test positive for everything.

The government called up an exhibit showing those test results, which were positive.

“This is the first time I’ve seen all this,” the witness said. A prosecutor asked whether she still received her prescriptions the day of the drug screening, and the witness responded, yes.

Her pill addiction served as a gateway to illicit street drugs like heroin and meth.

“I was a terrible heroin addict but I’ve been sober for 16 months and I’m doing well,” she told the jury. “It’s been a real struggle, addiction is tough.”

Stehl was arrested in August 2018 and stopped practicing medicine. To date, Stehl maintains his innocence. The defense will likely begin putting on their case on Monday. It’s unclear whether Stehl will testify.

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