The rate of drug overdose deaths attributed to opioids continues to rise. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that in 2016 there were more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths and 14,400 of those involved prescription painkillers such as Percocet and OxyContin. One of the reasons for the increase in these tragedies each year is the practice of doctor shopping. This is something that many U.S. states are attempting to combat through various monitoring programs.

What is Doctor Shopping?

When a patient sees a physician and receives a prescription for an opioid painkiller, it is generally for a limited amount with no refills. One of the characteristics of drug addiction is taking more medication than prescribed, which means that the prescription will run out quickly. To satisfy their need, many opioid addicts have turned to doctor shopping.

In its simplest form, doctor shopping refers to a patient visiting multiple physicians to secure prescriptions for a controlled substance. The practice is not only illegal, but it is dangerous because it places more opioids in the hands of a person than are considered safe.

People who doctor shop lie to their healthcare providers about their symptoms, treatment history, and medication use to get the prescriptions they want. The CDC found that 21.4 percent of unintentional prescription overdose deaths involved patients who had engaged in doctor shopping.

What is Being Done to Curtail Doctor Shopping for Opioids?

As recently as a year ago, doctor shopping was still a serious issue in the U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services released a report in 2017 revealing that there is heavy painkiller abuse among Medicare recipients, most of it involving doctor shopping. Some 22,000 recipients appear to be doctor shopping, and one patient in the Washington D.C. area received 2,330 opioid pain pills in just one month through 42 healthcare providers.

One of the most effective ways of putting a stop to doctor shopping is through the creation and use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). These are databases developed by individual states that track and monitor the prescribing and filling of prescriptions for controlled substances such as opioid painkillers. Every U.S. state now has one of these programs, and more states are now making their use mandatory.

Kentucky was the first state to require its doctors to use a PDMP, which has drastically cut down on doctor shopping within its borders. Within the first year of its new law implementing the program (2012), prescriptions for various forms for opioid pain medications dropped anywhere from 12 to 13 percent, and overdose hospitalizations fell 26 percent over the next three years.

Drug Addiction Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Not only is doctor shopping dangerous, but lying to secure controlled substances from multiple doctors is considered fraud and against both federal and state law. If you are struggling with drug addiction, you are placing your life and freedom at stake when you continue to engage in these behaviors. Fortunately, there is a way out.

Individuals who engage in doctor shopping are demonstrating they are either mentally or physically addicted to prescription medications. If this is your experience, help is available through a caring and compassionate drug addiction rehab program.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.