Dr. Procter’s House

I’m speaking today in a mansion near Portsmouth Ohio built by a doctor named David Procter – known around here as `The Godfather of the Pill Mill’ – whose story I told in Dreamland.

A reader I’ll call Karen, who grew up in Portsmouth, wrote to me a while ago:

“For some reason I feel compelled to tell you that Dr. Procter was the catalyst that destroyed my family.

The house, in South Shore, Kentucky on the Ohio River, has been converted to a procter-2drug rehabilitation clinic run by a company called Recovery Works.

Karen:

“My dad worked at the prison as a guard. He hurt his back, falling from a ladder during some sort of training assignment.

“I only knew that my dad got hurt at work, and [Procter] was his doctor. And that my mom hated him with a passion. I can remember going to his office and my mom coming out so upset. I found later that it was because she would go there and beg him to stop giving my dad pills. Lines out the door. I can still remember my mom and my aunt and my grandmother in the car discussing all the people.

___

Pharmaceutical companies and pain specialists viewed the pain-pill revolution that transformed American medicine as a boon to doctors. They sold the opiate painkiller pill as a way of addressing the lack of time doctors had with patients, and pain patients in particular.

That doctors accepted them so readily tells us how serious were the time pressures they felt.

The more you prescribed them, though, the more the pills became a curse – just like morphine molecule they contained. They wore down a doctor. A doctor known as an easy touch was soon overwhelmed with patients who filled his waiting room, waving cash in front of him, insisting. Soon he was accepting only cash – addicted to it, accepting the lies his patients told him, believing too that nothing was wrong.

From this emerged the medical mutation known as the Pill Mill. Nothing showed the corrosive effects of for-profit medicine like the pill mill.procter-1

David Procter was notorious in Portsmouth for prescribing large amount of pain pills to patients, with almost no diagnosis.

___

“The day my parents marriage finally ended, was the day my mother threw all of my dad’s pills Down The Gutter and he removed the manhole cover and crawled down to get them. I remember her taking her wedding ring off then and telling him that she wanted a divorce. His head was literally sticking out of the manhole. Sad time.”   Karen

___

David Procter was a product of that, I believe.

He had come in 1977, and been beloved. Amid economic decline, doctors held the key to life strategies like worker’s comp and SSI. Procter became the quickest doc around in preparing worker’s comp papers.

In 1988, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure investigated him for the first time. Those reports seem to describe a man losing his bearings but still trying to maintain some semblance of medical and moral rectitude, still looking for second opinions and trying to find alternatives to pills for his pain patients.

Ten years later, a second investigation, and that doctor had vanished.

In the interim, OxyContin and the Pain Revolution had come. Jobs were gone, Main Street was an empty shell. Ohio River towns had lost huge population. Dreamland pool had closed.

As a doctor in a desperate place, he had been unaccountable for too long and grown corrupt, the Kentucky public record documents. Now, investigators found a man who extorted sex for pills from vulnerable and addicted women, who preyed on girls tormented about abortions. His waiting room was a corral of drug addicts, all there with eyes downcast, desperate. He stayed open well past his posted business hours. His records were shoddy or nonexistent.

After a car accident, he began hiring doctors with drug and alcohol problems to run his clinics. This is what gave him lasting importance to this story, for those doctors in turn left to start their own pain clinics.

The problem metastasized like a cancer. Procter became the Ray Kroc of the Pill Mill.

__

Drugs have hit my family hard. My uncle’s stepdaughter and her daughter were both murdered in Lucasville. They still haven’t found their murderers. The daughter was a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl who didn’t deserve anything that she got. Apparently her mother was selling Oxycontin. My aunt’s step-daughter is doing life right now for murdering another girl in a town near Portsmouth. I have two uncles who both died of heroin overdoses in the last 6 years.

And some of my friends from high school, their daughter has been missing for about 6 years. Due to drugs as well, I’m sure of it. I could go on and on. I’m so glad that I left that area in 1989 and made a better life for myself. However the county that I am living in and have been living in for 27 years is starting to feel the sting. It’s happening.    Karen

___

David Procter eventually went to prison for 12 years. He was released in 2014 and, being Canadian, was procter-3deported. He leaves behind a strange painting of a monkey looking into a mirror, with Dr. Procter’s reflection looking back at him, and a seven-bedroom, six-bath, seven-car mansion on 34 acres that is now occupied by 16 addicts working on their recovery.

____

My dad OD’d in 2009, but he really died years before. He was a good dad once. I’m glad that I have those happy memories.

I know Procter’s house well. We always called it the house that pills built. Beautiful place. Fitting that it’s now a rehab.   Karen

 

23 Comments

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23 Responses to Dr. Procter’s House

  1. Barry Blumenthal

    So now the big pill push turns to stimulants. According to ADHD Nation by Alan Schwarz, 10% of all people prescribed Adderall will become addicted. And of course, who pushes most heavily for everyone to be called ADHD, Big Pharma!
    History repeats itself before the last chapter has even ended.

  2. Read your book. Loved it. Portsmouth native here, who spent his summers at Dreamland Pool. I’ve been in slow-motion mourning over Portsmouth ever since the steel mill closed in 1981.

    I’ve moved away. Had to, for work. I’ll never forget the first time I brought my partner home to meet family. As soon as we crossed the city limits on Route 23 coming out of Columbus, we were greeted by a giant billboard featuring my mother’s old and aged Ob/Gyn, Dr. Temponeras, advertising his pain clinic that he operated with his daughter. I’ll never forget that.

  3. Jeff

    “Doctor” Proctor wasn’t just in the business of selling drugs to addicts. He also created addicts among those who didn’t know what they were getting into. He would prescribe them pills for month after month until they had to have them. He did that before the days where people traveled from several states all over the region to get his prescriptions. He got my cousin addicted when my cousin knew what was going on and went willingly into that life seeking some sort of romantic notion of the tormented artist. Giving pills to him was bad enough. But he also gave them to the elderly father of one of my friends and that man had no idea what Proctor was doing to him. Later he didn’t need to do such things of course. But long before the drug companies were touting oxycontin as a safe way to use narcotics without getting addicted Proctor was giving out Percosets to anyone that asked along with any other drug they asked for. Every patient got 2 scripts. Many chose Xanax which was just as addictive if not more so. And the combination was like multiplication instead of addition.

    Many doctors followed in his wake. He created a pill mill in South Shore with a pharmacy next door that gave out painkillers all day long. The parking lot was always full when the office was open. People would travel from hundreds of miles away to see him. Then the doctors he trained started their own pill mills.

    In the history of medicine I don’t think any doctor has caused as much misery as Proctor. I had friends die because of the addiction he created. And what’s maybe worse is that people who really needed pain medicine eventually couldn’t get it because no one could tell the addicts from the people stricken with chronic pain.

    I found it most ironic that one of the doctors that worked for Proctor refused to testify against Proctor. But Proctor testified against him. The result was the servant did more time than the master. What a world.

  4. Mary

    I am the Doctor who came to the catholic Outreach Clinic in South Shores , KY in early 1998. It took only a couple of months to recognise the huge opioid problem there. I reported Dr. David Proctor as did some of my colleagues at the time. He was not the only one though, there were several. One who reportedly came in drunk , signed scripts so his staff could continue his practice and make money. I never met the majority of these Docs. The pharmaceutical reps used to complain, when they went to Proctor’s clinic with samples ( antibiotics) patients there would swarm the car, thinking there might be narcotics there. I reported Proctor to the DEA in 1998. I only practiced there for 2 years. I would not “play the game” and fired all the addicts. I thought we would go broke. We didn’t. The result, in the end, was just as expected. Will buy the book as it is a part of my history too.

  5. DON

    i was fortunate enough not to become an addict or ever do pills ,drugs etc,but,david was my doctor as a child,his house was off of east tiger just off u s 23,and the lake shown my cousin and i fished it many times

  6. Terry Bradley

    I am so sorry for what all you went through…I just want to comment…I went to doctor proctor back in the 80’s …I got the top layer of my finger cut off by a slicer at Bonanza in wheelrrsburg…He put my finger back together and hardly even a scar today…I think he would have been a fantastic dr…if greed didn’t take over…and that goes for Dr. Temponeras…he delivered all my kids and I just loved him…and now we all know what’s happened to him…don’t understand it…

  7. must say , I went to DR. PROCTER for years for my son . He was a mentally challenged child and if it wasn’t for him he might not of made it this long of life. if I wanted something for him and he didn’t think it was what was best for him I didn’t get it….If I wanted something and he didn’t think it was good for me I didn’t get it….I know at that time he was a great Dr. I feel theres plenty of Dr. I could had went to and got what I wanted but I didn’t. That is exactly what probly happened when DR.Procter was taken away. No doubt he was in the wrong or they wouldn’t put him in prison…But I still remember that DR that helped a mother that was trying her best to keep her son alive…

  8. Sharryl Priest

    Thanks for exposing there were and still are doctors that over prescribe “pain” meds. There was a time when diet pills also were given out to easily especially to women also tranquilizer even today in some cases. Remember “Vallley of the dolls” that sure wasn’t all fiction. We live in a “pill” society–drug companies run our world and with their lobbyists all over Washinton DC it’s a problem. Greed!! I hope this story and others do help.

  9. Jennifer Wright

    Thank you for the book Dreamland. I was at the Recovery Works house today in South Shore Ky. To listen to your speech. I talked to you briefly before you spoke. I lived in the house for about ten years before selling to Recovery Works. I received some flack for selling to them from the neighbors. It is the perfect place for a drug treatment facility. The house has come full circle.

  10. Lee

    His house well mansion was out in the country, with a lake in front of it, it wasn’t far from his office on US 23… Not the Ohio river, usless he had two.

  11. Vicki Evans

    I think you were to easy on Dr. Proctor. He followed the money, saw a way to make more of it.

    • Vicki Evans

      I’m sorry, I didn’t realize until after I posted that our posts had to wait “moderation”. If I had known that this was a site where you can’t speak your mind freely, I wouldn’t have bothered posting in the first place.

  12. Lee

    I grew up in South Shore, and remember when Dr Proctor was there, everything said on this site is true. I would drive down US 23 and see the long lines of people waiting to get in his clinic. At one time he was also big into the diet pill dealings too, pain pills were his biggest money. Very sad to read that he had destroyed so many families and lives. There was a woman in Grayson, KY that was associated with him. When they tried to leave for Candid they both were takin into custody.

  13. Linda

    Please keep these (young) men and women in your prayers…they have been to my church a couple of times…They are trying very hard to make a difference in their lives…

  14. Nathan Gallaher

    Whoever “karen” is sounds like her family has been full of drug problems regardless of anyone else. A addict will be an addict whether they have those enablers or not. They don’t get it from there they will go somewhere else. I’m not condoning anything that happened but these people were going to get it regardless. Because your family is on drugs don’t try and blame it on someone else blame it on them for making that choice. To get one person to point fingers at people that supposedly ruined her family I think is irresponsible journalism. Seems like fox news or something spinning one side of the story. He also did good and had many good people come to him and always did right by those people. Blame has to be placed somewhere i guess though…

    • “these people”? Nathan, in August 2016 the US Surgeon General (SG) wrote a letter to every doctor in the country. In the letter he said, “. Many of us were even taught – incorrectly – that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain. The results have been devastating. ”

      Many good doctors believed they were helping people by giving them opium pain pills. As a results, according to the SG “nearly 2 million people in America have a prescription opioid use disorder.”

      Yes, many of “these people” were looking to get high and for them, Dr. Procter was a drug dealer. But, for far too many people, a work related accident led to opium addiction. NO, I’m not going to ” blame it on them for making that choice.” Far too many became addicted to the medication they received from their doctor, which they took as directed.

      However, I’m also not blaming you. You’re exactly where I was 5 years ago. At that time I didn’t know how many of “these people” had become accidently addicted to the medication that doctors had been incorrectly trained would not be addicted.

      May I suggest you do a little research on “pain pill addiction.”

  15. keep up the good work,loved your book,it was weird reading something i was right in the middle of and not knowing it

  16. Brent Kagan

    Sam,

    Excellent follow-on story to Dreamland. I wish I could have been in Huntington to meet you at the October 1 book event, but I am briefly overseas for business. I think of people I knew from home who passed so young and wonder if the cause was from the drug epedemic. A reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Jeremy Redmond) had a front page story in early September about a family devastated by opioids. Georgia is now getting a bird’s eye view of the pain and evil effects of the molecule. This problem must be known and recognized by the masses so that we can recognize and address it before too many more lives are lost.

  17. Barbara Bayes

    I grew up in the area. I think you’re being too kind to dr. Proctor. Some of my relatives who are in the medical profession in the area ought he was just out for the money and the women. Maybe he got addicted himself. Money is a great elixir.

  18. Good writing. Compelling. And so tragic.

    Thanks for writing this. Keep telling the stories. We have to save the ones we can, one at a time.

    • Joan Osburn White

      I remember taking my mother-in-law at the time there. I was to young and nieave to know what was going on. She is almost 80 now and the effects of too many pills is so sad!
      I’ve lost an Aunt from these drugs! A brother any day it feels! So, many friends and famlies effected by this. Who really cares about the ones lost in this?

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