Many legal prescription painkillers and other medications can be extremely helpful to people suffering from chronic health conditions. Because of the addictive nature of these medications, they have the potential for abuse. People with substance use disorders may visit many different doctors to acquire drugs. “Doctor shopping” is a major indicator of prescription drug abuse, and substance abuse treatment programs can help you or someone you love break the habit for good.
What Is Doctor Shopping?
When someone is doctor shopping, they’re deliberately getting prescriptions for controlled substances from multiple healthcare providers, but none of their providers know about the other prescriptions. They may also look for doctors who give out medication generously.
A person who sees many doctors isn’t necessarily doctor shopping. Many people with chronic illnesses have a lot of different healthcare providers on their treatment teams. And people with many kinds of medical conditions may visit multiple physicians to find the best match.
Doctor shoppers, however, will knowingly give false or incomplete information to the doctors they visit. They might exaggerate their symptoms or claim to have lost other prescriptions. This way, physicians think the patient needs medication that they don’t need.
People usually shop for higher quantities of addictive prescription drugs, like Xanax, Vicodin, or OxyContin. They may go to different pharmacies or make repeated visits to emergency rooms and health care clinics.
How Can I Recognize Doctor Shopping?
There are several signs that a person may be doctor shopping to fuel prescription drug abuse, such as:
- Faking or exaggerating symptoms to get stronger drugs or higher doses
- Not disclosing previous prescriptions to new doctors
- Having the same medication prescribed by different providers
- Seeing doctors in different states
- Misplacing their prescriptions
- Finishing prescriptions early
- Seeing many doctors without having a real medical need
- Paying in cash for all prescriptions
While prescription drug abuse can affect anyone, doctor shopping is especially common for patients undergoing surgery or musculoskeletal trauma.
Physicians and pharmacists are looking for doctor shopping, and they may notice if the same person fills prescriptions for controlled substances, like pain medications, unusually frequently.
How Doctor Shopping Fuels Prescription Drug Abuse
People sometimes slide into prescription drug abuse after they’ve received a legitimate prescription for a medical condition. If the prescription is for a habit-forming substance, like an opioid, narcotic, or painkiller, people can come to depend on the drug’s “feel-good” effects. Dependence can develop after just two weeks of taking opioids. Users may build up a tolerance to the substance, which means they need higher doses to get the same effect.
Drugs that people commonly doctor-shop to obtain may include:
- Opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin
- Muscle relaxants
- Stimulants like Concerta and Adderall
- Hallucinogenic drugs
- Central nervous system depressants like Klonopin and Ativan
- Anabolic steroids
- Weight loss medications
If their doctor is unwilling to increase their dose or feels the drug is no longer medically necessary, someone with an addiction will want to obtain the medication anyway. Their bodies have become accustomed to the drug, and they’ll experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it. They’ll take risks to acquire the drug, including seeing as many doctors as possible.
Another common reason for doctor shopping is to obtain many controlled substances to sell to others. This illegal practice makes prescription drug abuse much easier.
Besides addiction’s physical and psychological dangers, doctor shopping can have harmful legal consequences. Doctor shopping is a felony according to federal law, punishable by fines or prison time.
Footprints Beachside Recovery: A Fresh Start
If someone is doctor shopping because of an addiction, it’s time to call in professional, compassionate help. Footprints Beachside Recovery offers evidence-based treatment for substance abuse and a wide continuum of care with inpatient and outpatient options. Our Florida center offers a safe place to detox from addictive substances and begin your recovery journey. Clients meet with doctors and mental health practitioners to develop a treatment plan that meets their needs. Doctors take a personalized approach, employing holistic treatment methods to heal clients’ bodies, minds, and spirits. Sober living is available for clients who want a supportive living situation.
Stop the cycle of doctor stopping, and get a fresh start by calling 727.513.5972 or reaching out online.