Prescription drugs are designed to treat the most serious health conditions, yet they also kill more Americans by overdose than all other drugs combined. Doctors have become increasingly aware of the danger that prescription drugs can have on their patients. While most patients have a legitimate need for medication, others are more interested in satisfying their addictions or making money on the black market by reselling the drugs they receive. Today’s drug climate requires doctors to balance their roles as medical caregivers as well as drug gatekeepers. Medical professionals do their part to keep drugs out of the hands of addicts in a number of ways (CNN, “How physicians try to prevent ‘doctor shopping’”).
Watching for the warning signs of abuse
When patients seek medication to feed their addiction, they will do or say whatever is necessary to convince doctors that they have a medical need. They will often do research on illnesses commonly treated by the medication that they desire so they can memorize and repeat back the symptoms to their doctors. Patients may even pretend to be disabled in some way, yet drop the act when they’re not aware that they’re being watched. Doctors stay vigilant for patients that seem to be parroting information they found online or faking their need for treatment.
Doctors can also check for the physical signs of addiction before prescribing medication. When patients are flagged for a high risk of addiction, their doctors can send them for addiction screenings. These can involve evaluation by a pain therapist to ensure that patients are actually experiencing the symptoms that they claim. Urine tests can also be compared with patients’ medical history to ensure that they’re supplying honest samples.
Prescription monitoring programs
When addicts and black market dealers try to con prescriptions out of doctors, they rarely settle for just one prescription. Many drug abusers engage in a practice called “double doctoring” or “doctor shopping,” which involves secretly seeing a number of doctors for prescriptions without telling any of them about each other. A well-publicized example of this practice occurred in 2010, when actor Corey Haim died of a medication overdose from one of more than 500 prescriptions. Fortunately, doctors have a number of tools to prevent patients from going behind their backs for unneeded drugs.
Prescription drug monitoring programs keep track of each patient’s prescription history. Before writing prescriptions, doctors can check their patients’ history to ensure that they have not already sought treatment elsewhere. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these programs are currently available in 49 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam. Usage of these programs has already proven very effective in preventing instances of double doctoring. For example, New York saw a 75-percent drop in prescriptions from multiple sources since its own program began.
Diligence on the part of medical staff can limit the flow of drugs to the streets, but addicts will inevitably find new or alternative ways to get high. If you or someone you know has developed a substance abuse disorder, the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California can provide information and advice on how to get treatment. Call our qualified staff at 855-738-2770.