‘Doctor Shopping’ is a phenomenon that is on the rise across the nation. While law enforcement used to be concerned about “street drugs” such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc., they are now turning their attention to prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse is defined as using the medication in ways or amounts that are not approved by a physician or taken by someone other than the patient to whom medication is prescribed.
Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics
Every day in the United States it is estimated that there is approximately 2,500 youth between the ages of 12 and 17 abuse a prescription drug for the first time. Depressants, opioids, and antidepressants are now more responsible for overdose deaths than heroin, methamphetamine, amphetamine, and cocaine combined.
Perhaps this is based on the statistic that 50% of teenagers believe that prescription drugs are less dangerous than street drugs. However, this is almost never the case. In fact, the prevalence of prescription drug abuse is based on the concept that patients can obtain these drugs almost anywhere at any time.
How Does ‘Doctor Shopping’ Work?
The phenomenon of doctor shopping consists of an individual’s addiction to prescription drug abuse. Patients seek prescriptions from many different physicians, which allow them to obtain much more of the medication that would ever be prescribed or available. For example, an individual experiencing postpartum depression may no longer seek prescriptions from their OB-GYN. They may begin to seek aide from ER physicians or urgent care clinics. Psychologists may also be used to seek medication to aid in postpartum depression maintenance.
When physical conditions, such as recovery from a C-Section or spinal conditions, begin to cause additional discomfort the need for stronger medications in larger doses occurs. In many cases, one doctor does not know what the others have prescribed. Eventually, the requested medications intensify and grow more potent.
How to Detect Prescription Abuse
Recently, local and state authorities, insurance companies, pharmacies, and physicians have integrated protocols in order to detect and prevent prescription drug abuse. Insurance companies only allow certain quantities of medication without pre-authorizations. Pharmacies are leery of filling the prescription for potent painkillers without insurance verification. Doctors have begun confirming prescriptions with pharmacists. This type of monitoring is known as Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs or PDMP.
Oftentimes, ‘doctor shopping’ is often associated with other criminal activity. This may include forging prescriptions, theft of prescription notepads, and the illicit sale of prescription drugs to others. Patients have usually convinced themselves that these medications are necessary for their pre-existing illness and/or condition.
Seeking Health for Prescription Substance Abuse
In a study performed in 2006 by the Boston University School of Medicine, it was discovered that more than 40% of Americans use potent painkillers on a regular basis and more than 10 million individuals take opioids to relieve pain. As a result, it is assumed that widespread prescription drug abuse creates far more concern for the public than previously thought.
In an attempt to discourage this trend, lawmakers have begun to crack down on “doctor shopping” by implementing some hefty penalties. Legally “doctor shopping” for prescription drugs is a felony and can be punished by up to five years in prison. However, even these consequences are not enough to deter some addicts. Despite the barriers that have been put in place to reduce the availability of prescription drugs for addicts, individuals with substance abuse will attempt to find any way to get around the system.
The only way to truly eradicate this tendency is through treatment from a comprehensive treatment center for substance abuse. Once individuals have resorted to ‘doctor shopping’ for prescription drug abuse, their addiction has grown beyond their control. They require love and care from friends and family and professional treatment for substance abuse.