What Is Doctor Shopping?

Are you currently struggling with substance use disorder (SUD)? Perhaps you are beginning to recognize signs of SUD within yourself or a loved one. Does the nature of your addiction cause you to find yourself going from one doctor to another to increase your access to prescription medication and continue substance use? If so, you may be doctor shopping. Over the years, laws and regulations have been created to mitigate this occurrence. Despite these efforts, many still find ways around these rules and end up doctor shopping. 

The consequences of doctor shopping may be more severe than you realize. Some states consider it a form of prescription fraud, and the practice is against the law. Aside from the legal ramifications, a life of continued substance use will only bring further harm to you and your life. So stop the doctor shopping, and seek addiction treatment today. 

What Is Doctor Shopping?

Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience defines doctor shopping as "seeing multiple treatment providers, either during a single illness episode or to procure prescription medications illicitly." When doctor shopping, a person visits multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions. It is a common practice among people struggling with SUD and even individuals who supply drugs to others. 

There are other reasons you might doctor shop. Perhaps you bounce between doctors trying to find a doctor you are comfortable with or an office with more convenient times. These reasons are usually not related to substance use. Instead, doctor- and patient-related factors may cause you to go from one doctor to another. 

Despite these more mundane reasons for changing doctors, the fact remains that many individuals do it to feed an illicit prescription medication need. Some may question the ethics of doctor shopping, but it can be challenging to recognize substance-seeking behaviors. 

If unnoticed, doctor shopping can lead to legal and health-related consequences. Doctor shopping laws may help prevent such outcomes. However, addiction can make it difficult for you to control your actions regarding SUD. 

Doctor Shopping Laws

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers information about doctor shopping laws. Doctor shopping laws "prohibit patients from obtaining drugs by any or all of the following means: fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, subterfuge, or concealment of material fact." Individual states have further laws on the matter. 

Unfortunately, addiction is a chronic condition defined by compulsive behavior and drug-seeking habits that are challenging to control despite knowledge of the consequences. That means it may be difficult for you to refrain from doctor shopping just because it could get you in trouble. When cravings are powerful enough, there is almost nothing you won't do to obtain the substance you are dependent on. 

Prescription Drug Addiction

Common addictive substances include marijuana, alcohol, heroin, and other illicit drugs. However, prescription medications can also be highly addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), five million people in the United States aged 12 or older had a prescription opioid use disorder in 2021. The problem is quite common, and when you lose access to prescription medications, you might turn to doctor shopping. 

Prescription drug addiction may be difficult to recognize. You may not realize you have a problem or can hide it from your loved ones successfully. The first step toward treatment is being able to recognize the signs. You may be struggling with a prescription drug addiction if you showcase at least two of these symptoms within one year: 

  • Taking prescription drugs frequently and in higher doses than directed 
  • The inability to cut back or stop prescription drug use altogether and experiencing withdrawal when you try 
  • Spending more time trying to obtain, use, or recover from prescription drug use — including time spent doctor shopping 
  • Being unable to fulfill personal or professional responsibilities because of substance use 
  • Continued drug use, even if you are experiencing consequences at home, work, or financially 
  • Increased risky behaviors or using prescription medications in dangerous situations 
  • Recognizing an increased tolerance for prescription drugs 

These are just a few indicators that you may struggle with a prescription drug addiction. You can also look for signs to determine if you are doctor-shopping to obtain prescription drugs. Some of those signs include: 

  • Hiding prescription drugs around your home 
  • Not following instructions and taking medications outside of their prescribed use 
  • Asking a doctor for higher dosages of a medication 
  • Telling a doctor that the prescribed medication is ineffective, either to get a stronger prescription or because you have developed a tolerance 
  • Using other illicit drugs or substances with a prescribed medication 

Recovery is possible. You can avoid the legal ramifications of doctor shopping by seeking treatment for your prescription drug addiction. Speak with a medical professional or reach out to NorthStar Transitions to start your recovery journey today. 

Substance use disorder (SUD) presents itself in several ways. We often see individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) or addiction to marijuana, heroin, and other illicit drugs. Unfortunately, millions of Americans also become dependent on prescription medications. Substance-seeking behaviors can cause you to act erratically and do whatever it takes to obtain a substance. Part of that erratic behavior may include doctor shopping. Doctor shopping is when one person sees multiple doctors in an attempt to get more prescription drugs. Despite laws, many continue to partake in this practice and face many legal and health ramifications. You can prevent these consequences by seeking treatment. Call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400 today for more information. 

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