America is in the midst of the worst addiction epidemic in the nation’s history. Trends have changed in regards to which drug is the worst offender at the time, but currently, prescription opioids are by far the biggest threat we currently face. They are responsible for more cases of addiction and more overdose deaths than any other drugs, and statistics are rising steadily year after year. As prescription rates continue to increase, so do addiction rates. One major factor that has led to the direness of this situation is doctor shopping.
Doctor shopping occurs when a prescription drug addict will visit several different doctors in order to attempt to get multiple prescriptions for their drug of abuse. The idea is that the doctors will be unaware of each other, so the patient will be able to maintain multiple prescriptions with attracting suspicion from any one doctor.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
One innovation that has been implemented to curb doctor shopping rates is Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). These are essentially linked state databases that report patient’s prescription history, their dosages, and the prescribing doctors. This allows a doctor to understand a patient’s prescription history to determine whether or not they might have an addiction, and to assess what may be appropriate to prescribe. This can help to make sure a patient is prescribed only exactly what they need, and that they are referred to addiction recovery services if they are identified as having an addiction.
Addicts will go to great lengths to acquire their drugs of abuse. The issue has gotten so bad that people have actually gotten caught getting veterinarians to prescribe painkillers and tranquilizers for their pets, just so they can use them themselves. There have even been reported cases of people intentionally injuring their pets just so they can get animal painkillers from their vets. Fortunately, many vets have caught onto this deplorable phenomena, but some have not yet. There has been some talk of implementing much stricter regulations for vets prescribing prescription painkillers, but many vets complain that it would make their jobs a lot harder to address an issue that happens relatively infrequently. Overall, an addict is much more likely to try to obtain their drugs from a traditional doctor than a veterinarian.
Addressing the Issue
Every doctor that prescribes opioid medication needs to be educated about addiction and vigilant for signs of possible addiction or doctor shopping from their patients. Furthermore, the medical industry needs to move away from prescribing painkillers as the go-to method of treating any and all pain issues. There are many natural, holistic, and over the counter methods of treating pain that are highly effective and that do not have the risk of addiction or negative health consequences that come with opioid pain medications. Doctors need to recommend these methods first and save prescription opiods for extreme pain cases when all other methods have failed. In general, prescription painkillers should be reserved for inpatient hospital settings for surgery recovery, acute injuries, and serious or terminal illnesses. Most pain issues can be addressed effectively without needing prescription painkillers. Millions of lives could be saved from addiction or overdose if doctors change their prescribing habits, and if every doctor participates in prescription drug monitoring programs.