A recent study from 2008 found that “doctor shopping” accounted for around 4.3 million painkiller prescriptions in that year, and the problem is showing no signs of slowing down. If you’ve never heard the term “doctor shopping,” it’s one that you need to be aware of, especially if someone you love takes prescription pain medications. Doctor shopping refers to visiting multiple doctors, often new and different ones and sometimes at great distances, in order to try and obtain more prescriptions for pain medication.
In the early stages, doctor shopping often indicates a forming addiction to opiates, and as the addiction progresses, it can become a more and more common occurrence. It is illegal and, if the prescriptions are filled and used, it can also prove dangerous for the user, potentially leading to overdose.
The Doctor’s Role
Prescribing physicians possess a great deal of responsibility; they can give prescriptions to whom they see fit, but it is also their job, both legally and ethically, to be careful about whom they fill prescriptions for and how often they fill those prescriptions. While no doctor can spot doctor shoppers 100 percent of the time, doctors should be trained on the “warning signs” that often accompany a doctor shopper and should use their best judgment when prescribing medications to patients. When doctors do their parts, this problem can be greatly reduced. Some of the warning signs mentioned above include:
- Patients who arrive at the doctor’s office shortly before closing or during peak times without an appointment. Usually, they hope the doctor will be busy and just write them a prescription and send them on their way.
- Patients who claim to have recently moved from somewhere far away and/or whose past physicians cannot be reached for other reasons.
- Patients who report symptoms that are not evident.
- Refusing all other treatments and/or medications for pain.
When Your Loved One Is a Doctor Shopper
If you think someone you love may be doctor shopping, confront him or her about it. Don’t be surprised, however, if your loved one denies it. Inform the person that doctor shopping is illegal and, depending on your state, can carry serious consequences. If you’re unsure if someone is doctor shopping, look out for the following signs:
- Running out of medications quickly
- Regularly driving out of town for medications or for undisclosed reasons
- Switching doctors regularly
- Forging prescriptions
- Stealing medication
- Using other people’s prescription medications
Doctor shopping concerns aside, pain medication abuse and addiction carry serious risks and can diminish a person’s health and quality of life. If you think a problem exists at all, seek help for your friend or family member through treatment here at Axis today.