Is Your Loved One “Doctor Shopping?"

Do you suspect that a loved one of yours is “doctor shopping” to get more prescription drugs? This has become a prevalent and serious problem in the U.S. over the years. “Doctor-shopping” used to be a way to get second opinions about an illness from different health care providers. Recently, however, this has evolved into an illicit practice for patients to see multiple health providers for the purpose of obtaining prescription medications. According to a 2017 article published by the Substance Abuse journal, “doctor shopping” has become a means of increased prescription opioid use. This practice alone has skewed the opioid abuse epidemic.

What Are the Dangers of “Doctor Shopping”?

Illicit “doctor shopping” is dangerous because it directly contributes to prescription drug addiction. These drugs are prescribed by a doctor, so those around a person struggling with addiction might not be able to recognize the pattern to be a form of addiction. Illicit “doctor shopping” is deceiving by nature, because the person who uses it sets up a façade. They are exploiting a loophole in the health care system because each doctor does not have enough knowledge and thus cannot discern whether it is safe for a person to be prescribed a certain medication.

Without early intervention, addiction to prescription drugs can spiral out of control under your very eyes, like all other kinds of substance addiction. The effects are comparable to using street drugs. This epidemic is running deep among young people in America. A 2017 survey found that 18 million people (more than 6 percent of those aged 12 and older) have misused such medications at least once in the past year. The most commonly misused drugs include opioid painkillers (like Percocet or Vicodin), central nervous system depressants, and stimulants (like Adderall or Concerta).

Prescription drug addiction can lead to changes in brain structures, as well as in mental health and behavioral aspects. One’s cognitive function may decrease, affecting normal thinking functions. One’s respiratory system can also be affected, sometimes even causing a coma or death. Legally speaking, “doctor shopping” for the purpose of accessing prescription drugs is also a crime. 

How to Determine if Your Loved One Is “Doctor Shopping”

To avoid missing early intervention, you should watch out for some warning signs if you suspect that a loved one is misusing prescription drugs. These suspicious actions include the following:

  • going to see multiple doctors for no apparent physical illness
  • possessing prescriptions of the same medication from different medical providers
  • finishing prescriptions early
  • going to different pharmacies
  • crossing county or state borders for doctor’s visits
  • paying for medication by cash
  • lying about their frequent medical appointments
  • saying they have lost a previous medication

Although many states have put laws in place to prevent “doctor shopping” and reduce the misuse of prescription drugs, there are still many ways people can find loopholes. Illicit selling of prescription drugs online is one example and has harmed many young people. 

If you are a concerned parent, the best way to intervene is to watch your child closely and spot these signs of “doctor shopping.” Many parents missed the opportunity for early intervention only because they were ignorant about this practice and the policy loopholes. Some are negligent of their teens’ or young adults’ way of life to the extent that they are totally unaware of the dangers. For this reason, being open to education about substance addiction and parent coaching is very important.

How You Can Help if a Loved One Is “Doctor Shopping”

Even though it might be shocking to find out that your loved one is “doctor shopping” due to addiction, you need to understand why. How did they get exposed to drug use in the first place? What risk factors are present in the home? 

If you are a parent who finds out about your child doing this, it is time to reflect on what your parental role may have to do with his or her addiction. What made them turn to drugs? Was there neglect or abuse in the home? Have you in any way enabled such behavior? Were there unhealthy boundaries that contributed to it? Usually, the risk factors are not hard to spot. 

Additionally, you can find a trained interventionist who offers parent coaching. Many parents are unaware of their own problems when it comes to their children’s addiction. This first phase of reckoning requires a great deal of counterintuitive thinking and humility, so you might be better off using the help of professional parent coaches and interventionists. They can walk alongside you to help encourage and enable your child’s recovery from addiction or substance use-related behavioral problems.

Do you suspect that a loved one is “doctor shopping” as a way to access more prescription drugs? Have you noticed any warning signs of suspicion and deception in this respect? If you are a parent, do you know what to look for with your child? Illegal “doctor shopping” has been driving the prescription drug addiction epidemic in this country, particularly among young people. You need to know more about it in order to be prepared. You can work with parent coaches and interventionists to start in the right direction. At South Florida Intervention, we know what it is like to be the parent of a youth struggling with addiction. We have walked alongside many parents to care for their teens and young adults. Recovery involves not just healing from addiction, but restoration of a healthy family dynamic. In addition to recovery coaching and parent coaching, we also offer detailed case management and escort service. Call us at (202) 390-2273.