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What is Doctor Shopping?

People with a prescription drug addiction exhibit telltale signs and warnings. Some signs of addiction are related to obtaining medications. As such, they include things like hoarding medications, feigning symptoms to get more pills, buying other people’s medications, or asking for a higher dose than needed. However, some people engage in doctor shopping to get more prescriptions, which could lead to negative legal consequences.

At Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, we know that prescription drug addiction can be difficult to stop without help. That is why we offer treatment programs across all levels of care—from detox to aftercare. Our prescription drug rehab can prevent a person from the negative consequences of their addiction.

What is Doctor Shopping?

Doctor shopping is a drug-seeking behavior that involves finding new doctors to fill prescription medications. Simply put, a person will get a prescription filled by 1 doctor and then go to another for more. Since neither doctor is aware, they could be filling the same prescriptions for the same person.

The medications in question are usually controlled substances. These are medications that have a high risk of addiction. Therefore, doctors are unable to prescribe these medications without restrictions. Each doctor is limited on how the dosage and amounts of controlled substances they can prescribe, clients with an addiction resort to “shopping” for more doctors.

How Are Controlled Substances Regulated?

Under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), substances have a classification based on the risk of developing an addiction. This includes both illegal drugs and prescription medications that are placed on 5 schedules. Furthermore, the CSA states that the placement of each drug “is based upon the substance’s medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability.”

Examples of controlled substances that are prescription drugs include the following, though this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Prescription opioids:
    • Oxycodone
    • Fentanyl
    • Morphine
    • Codeine
  • Prescription stimulants:
    • Ritalin
    • Adderall
    • Dexedrine
  • Sedatives or benzodiazepines:
    • Xanax
    • Klonopin
    • Halcion
    • Ativan
    • Valium

Thus, when doctors prescribe medications like these, they must follow strict guidelines. In the online publication StatPearls, under the CSA, “[h]ealth professionals’ licenses include specific license numbers allowing controlled substance prescriptions to be tracked and linked to a particular provider or distributor.” 

In other words, medications with a high risk of addiction are monitored and tracked to prevent patients from misusing substances like the ones mentioned above.

Why Do Patients Practice Doctor Shopping?

In short, patients practice doctor shopping to avoid a doctor’s knowledge of prescribing these medications already. So, when the first doctor prescribes the entire amount allowed by the CSA, the patient moves on to the next doctor. As a result, they get more medication than they need to treat their symptoms.

It also needs to be stated that patients engaging in doctor shopping most often become addicted unintentionally. The prescriptions on the list of controlled substances are potent and must be prescribed—and taken—with caution. Oftentimes, patients become addicted to the euphoric side effects of their medications. In many cases, patients have an untreated mental health disorder and begin self-medicating with their prescriptions.

Doctor Shopping Laws

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all 50 states and the District of Columbia have “general doctor shopping laws.” Therefore, doctor shopping is illegal throughout the United States. However, the CDC adds, “[w]hile all states and the District of Columbia have general doctor shopping laws, the language used in the laws varies across jurisdictions.” 

Regardless of the specific language of each jurisdiction, punishment for doctor shopping takes addiction into consideration. In other words, first-time offenders usually get a diversion program rather than a fine or jail time. Diversion programs include attending a detox, inpatient rehab, or other form of addiction treatment.

However, after a first offense and attending a program, patients who relapse and engage in doctor shopping again could face fines or go to jail.

11 Signs of Doctor Shopping

Doctor shopping itself can be difficult for loved ones to notice, as a person will be secretive about going to multiple doctors. Still, this behavior will not occur in isolation. Therefore, a person with an addiction to prescription drugs will engage in related behaviors that are more noticeable.

The following are 11 signs of doctor shopping and prescription drug addiction:

  1. Asking their doctor for an increased dosage or stronger medication.
  2. Running out of medications earlier than expected.
  3. Attending more medical appointments than usual.
  4. Faking symptoms to get a higher dosage.
  5. Paying for prescription medications or treatment in cash only.
  6. Going to doctors that are out of state.
  7. Lying to friends and family about attending medical appointments.
  8. Taking medications in unusual ways, like crushing pills and snorting them.
  9. Stashing, collecting, or hiding pills in their home.
  10. Taking their prescription with other drugs or alcohol.
  11. No longer feeling the effects of a medication due to an increased tolerance.

In addition, any other unusual behaviors could be signs of drug addiction. Most often, family and friends notice when their loved one doesn’t appear to be acting like themselves. Fortunately, there is hope for recovery from prescription drug addiction. 

Recover From Prescription Drug Addiction Today

Prescription medications, when used under the careful guidance of a healthcare professional, can contribute significantly to health and wellbeing. However, certain medications can induce feelings of euphoria that, though unintended, could potentially trigger an addiction. Based in Los Angeles, California, Harmony Place is dedicated to offering assistance to those grappling with prescription drug addiction.

To increase access to our services, Harmony Place accepts health insurance from various providers such as Anthem BCBS, Aetna, Cigna, Blue Shield of CA, Carelon, and Humana. Our goal is to alleviate the financial concerns often associated with treatment, enabling you to focus entirely on your path to recovery.

Contact us today and begin your recovery journey.