Doctor Shopping: Using Exhaustive Methods to Obtain Medication
Prescription drug abuse is a dangerous and rapidly expanding problem in the United States. Dependence on physician-prescribed drugs can lead to criminal actions, and many addicts rely on doctor shopping to obtain more prescriptions.
Over the years, prescription drug abuse has been brought to the public’s attention through countless tragic celebrity deaths that resulted in whole or part from an overdose of prescription medications. The fatalities stretch as far back as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, and in recent years some of the most talked about losses were those of Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, and Michael Jackson.
The public’s obsession with the causes of these stars’ deaths shed new light on the rampant problem of prescription dependency for people of all ages and backgrounds, not just celebrities. Every year, thousands of individuals are written prescriptions for pain relievers and psychiatric medicines to ease the suffering of medical conditions. Despite their healing abilities, these medications can be highly addictive, and patients are left in desperate need once the refills run out. With the high risk of being caught for forging a fraudulent prescription, many patients resort to doctor shopping to obtain the medications their bodies crave.
Doctor shopping is a method used by individuals dependent on prescription drugs that involves a patient visiting several physicians and clinics for treatment of their original condition. Without the doctors’ knowledge, the patient is able to obtain a number of prescriptions for their addiction. Some of the most common prescriptions sought through doctor shopping are for painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, and morphine, and psychiatric drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ritalin, and Adderall. Armed with different prescriptions, the patient will have them filled at multiple pharmacies to avoid suspicion. Once they run out, the patient may return to the providers for new prescriptions, or they may find new doctors in an attempt to cover their tracks.
The stronger the addiction grows, the more pills the patient’s body will require on a daily basis, and they will up their intake the longer they can carry on doctor shopping without being caught. Though prescription drugs are safe and beneficial when used according to a physician’s orders, taking them in high doses or in conjunction with other medications puts the patient in extreme danger of an overdose. Overdosing on prescription medication can lead to illness, internal damage, permanent injuries, and fatality.
If the patient is arrested for doctor shopping, they face serious criminal charges. A doctor or pharmacist with reason to suspect that a patient is an addict may report their beliefs to authorities, which could lead to charges of a drug crime. Currently, 37 states have adopted prescription drug monitoring programs, which use statewide electronic databases to collect specific information on the controlled substances dispensed. These programs assist physicians and pharmacists in cross-checking cases in which numerous prescriptions are given to the same patient. In some states, the law allows health care providers to use the data collected as a tool to identify patients who show indication of potential addiction, and prescribe accordingly. If a pharmacist or physician discovers that a patient has been doctor shopping, either through a drug monitoring program or other information, the patient could be arrested for a drug offense.
Though prescription drug crimes do not carry the same stigma as illegal narcotic offenses, most states prosecute these charges very strictly. A skilled attorney can help the offender seek a lesser penalty of drug abuse counseling or a treatment program and probation, but the courts can sentence a prison or jail term of up to a few years, depending on state laws. Doctor shopping is a real crime and conviction will result in harsh penalties that limit personal freedoms. Patients struggling with prescription medication addiction must get the help they need before they lose their futures.