Signs of Doctor Shopping

Drug addiction has long plagued American society but prescription drugs are now taking their toll on people across the country at alarming rates. In particular, prescription opioids can be highly addictive when used incorrectly or for too long. They’ve played an important role in contributing to the opioid epidemic across America.

Doctors who are deceived by people who doctor shop may be misled into thinking patients actually require medications when they really don’t. Some doctors might know about doctor shopping but prescribe drugs anyway to benefit financially.

A common red flag for prescription drug abuse is doctor shopping. Recognizing the signs early can help both the individual who has an issue and their family members understand how serious the situation really is.

What Is Doctor Shopping?

“Doctor shopping” is a term that refers to “obtaining controlled substances from multiple healthcare practitioners without the prescribers’ knowledge of other prescriptions.” In other words, when people become dependent on certain medications, they might go out of their way to find multiple doctors (doctor shopping) who will prescribe them.

Who Commonly Doctor Shops?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a 2013 study identified doctor shoppers by analyzing opioid prescription records and purchasing habits. People seeking opioids are among the most common types of patients who go shopping for prescriptions from doctors

A study published in 2010 found that opioids were responsible for 12.8 percent of all prescriptions involved in multiple physician visits. Benzodiazepines were the next controlled substance prescribed at 4.2 percent, followed by stimulants at 1.4 percent and anorectic weight-loss medications at 0.9 percent.

People generally begin doctor shopping for the following reasons:

  • They’ve become dependent on a particular controlled substance and need to find ways to obtain more for their own consumption. It’s likely they were prescribed it legitimately at some point, but now their prescription has run out. After becoming addicted, people often begin doctor shopping for additional drugs.
  • Their goal is to sell the drugs. Demand for prescription medications is extremely high. In 2015, there were approximately 226 million opioid prescription painkillers prescribed in the United States. Dealers often seek out doctors who prescribe large quantities of narcotics to supply their buyers. 

As a result, many people have turned to doctor shopping as a means to acquire more pills. The NIDA study also found that doctor shoppers tend to be younger adults between the ages of 18 and 44 years old. They are typically white men with college educations.

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How Can I Tell If Someone Has Been Doctor Shopping?

In some cases, doctor shopping is an indication of substance abuse, which could lead to further health complications if not treated properly. Look out for these warning signs if you think somebody might be using their prescriptions inappropriately:

If you suspect someone is doctor shopping, here are some telltale signs to look out for:

  • The person appears to be taking too much medication or finishing prescriptions early
  • The person is visiting multiple doctors for various reasons without any real medical need
  • Saying their prescription drugs were misplaced 
  • Prescriptions for the same medication from different physicians
  • Paying for prescriptions with cash 
  • Crossing state lines to visit doctors 

Additionally, if you notice your loved one is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it may be time to get help. You don’t want to wait until your loved one is too far gone before seeking professional help.

Doctor Shopping Prevention & Laws

Each day, 2.1 million Americans abuse opioids. The Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1970 prohibits doctor shopping by making it illegal to knowingly distribute or dispense a controlled substance outside of proper channels. It also makes it a crime to possess with intent to distribute or dispense a controlled substance. Penalties include fines up to $250,000 and/or five years imprisonment.

Doctors can be held liable if they write prescriptions for someone who isn’t their patient. If you’ve been prescribed opioids by your primary care physician, he or she will likely ask you during your visit. 

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

States have taken steps to reduce prescription drug abuse by enacting legislation to make it harder for people to obtain prescriptions from multiple doctors without proper medical need.

In 2009, Florida approved a new law to address the state’s growing issues with prescription drug abuse. To combat doctor shopping, Florida developed a prescription drug monitoring program, E-FORCSE (Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation) in 2011. Oxycodone death rates have declined by 41% after E-FORCSE became fully operational. 

Rehab Options for Doctor Shoppers

Doctor shopping is often an indicator of a substance abuse problem. People who engage in these behaviors may be either mentally or physically dependent on prescribed medication, and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment might be their only hope for finding long-term recovery. Our Florida drug rehab program offers a full continuum of care to get your loved ones the help they need. 

Reach out to our admissions team to learn more about our treatment programs today.