Doctor shopping is the practice of visiting multiple physicians to obtain prescription medications or medical opinions for the same ailment. Health care providers usually consider this negative behavior. Depending on various definitions of doctor shopping, methodology and patient sample, the rate of this activity varies extensively between 6.3 percent and 56 percent.
It is a complex phenomenon and individuals take to doctor shopping for various reasons. To address the problem, it is important to understand the patient’s reasons for indulging in this.
People who take to doctor shopping go to great lengths to conceal their behavior from the various doctors they visit. Those dependent on prescription drugs quickly develop tolerance to their drug and thus need higher doses to satiate their urge. Such people find it difficult to ask for more pills from their regular doctor as it could lead to exposing their addiction. These individuals fear that upon suspicion of substance use disorder, the doctor will stop their supply of prescription drugs. On the other hand, it has come to the fore that certain groups engage in doctor shopping to procure large amounts of prescription drugs that can be sold in the illegal market.
Reasons for doctor shopping
Some factors that can prompt patients to take to doctor shopping are:
- Persistence of the symptoms.
- Lack of understanding of the diagnosis or treatment.
- Psychological factors like somatization and prescription seeking behavior.
A previous study published in Medical Care linked doctor shopping to an increased risk of dying from prescription drug overdose. Researchers from the West Virginia University of Pharmacy processed the data from the state’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Program regarding information on drug-related fatalities in the state, which was carried out from July 2005 through December 2007.
Of the 700 drug-related deaths during this period, 25 percent had visited multiple clinicians to obtain prescriptions, while 17.5 percent visited multiple pharmacies. Furthermore, it was noticed that 20 percent individuals engaging in doctor shopping also engaged in pharmacy shopping. Similarly, 55.6 percent of individuals engaging in pharmacy shopping were also involved in doctor shopping.
The most commonly sought drugs are opioids like Vicodin, OxyContin and benzodiazepines painkillers, including Valium and Xanax. Efforts to curtail doctor shopping through guidelines and regulations have been unsuccessful mostly because there is no proper means of monitoring hundreds of millions of pills pumped into the market and due to patient confidentiality rights.
Most of the states are encouraging health care specialists to check patients’ prescription drug histories through prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) before recommending opioid painkillers.
Path to recovery
There are various aspects to this relatively complex problem. Though most definitions of doctor shopping include multiple visits to different clinicians by patients, the motivation for doctor shopping may be due to various factors – physician-related, patient-related, etc.
It is also a means to procure additional prescription drugs for illicit use. Such practices can be harmful to patients because they are at a risk of developing an addiction to prescription drugs. Self-medication can lead to other complications such as changes in the brain structure, onset of harsh withdrawal symptoms following cessation and overdose that can sometimes result in death.
If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug addiction, it is imperative to seek help. Contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline for evidenced-based treatments to addresses various forms of prescription drug addiction. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557 to connect to the best prescription drug abuse treatment clinic in USA. You can also chat online with our medical advisors to know about holistic treatment available in the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in USA.