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04 August
Pill to kill – Part 3: How doctor shopping can fuel addiction
By Rachael

Pill to kill – Part 3: How doctor shopping can fuel addiction

Prescription drug addiction has become a global issue as it has affected a large number of people.  The menace of prescription drug abuse pushes a user to access the same medications illicitly from multiple treatment providers. Such an illicit measure has become popular among users and is commonly referred to as “doctor shopping.” Though such a measure cannot be straightforwardly classified as negative, most of such cases entail procurement of prescription drugs illicitly. Therefore, it is not a minor activity but a felony that leads to conviction and punishment.

It has been observed that more people are dying due to the overdose of prescription opioids than from other drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Although hard drugs like cocaine or heroin have hit their extreme limits, prescription drug abuse that paralyzes the life of many has become a part of lifestyle due to the habit of self-medication.

The abuse of prescription drugs is often overshadowed by the abuse of other illicit drugs. Unlike other illicit substances that often hit the “breaking news” hour, reports pertaining to the abuse of prescription drugs appear in the media only when they include celebrities as victims, such as Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger etc.

Doctor shopping: A health-threatening bug

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), some of the common ways by which prescription drug abuse is triggered include taking medication without being aware of the dangers. Doctor shopping is a typical way of reaching out to several doctors for prescribed painkillers. Besides being a common practice among people addicted to opioid painkillers, doctor shopping is also adopted by drug dealers for selling such medications to abusers who either can’t obtain other illicit drugs like heroin or don’t have a network of doctors to fulfill their requirements.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), doctor shopping is one of the primary ways to obtain prescription drugs for nonmedical use. Drugs like opiates and benzodiazepines are commonly abused prescription drugs. But amphetamine-based drugs, such as Adderall, too have made a strong base in the illegal drug industry and market. The abuse of prescription medicines often begins with legitimate use, later followed by abuse, misuse, forgery of prescriptions and doctor shopping, thereby leading to an addiction.

Abuse of prescribed medicines begins with legitimate use

Pain medication prescribed for a variety of common reasons, including mild to chronic pain or surgery, runs a high risk of developing dependence. The increase of prescription painkillers has coincided with a surge in the number of overdose deaths, pharmacy robberies and other problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid pain relievers (OPR), including oxycodone and hydrocodone, caused about 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008 alone, which spiked further in later years. The use of narcotic painkillers for nonmedical purposes has become a serious concern in the United States. In 2007, the number of overdose deaths due to prescription opioids outnumbered deaths due to the combination of heroin and cocaine.

Unlike most drugs, opioids are highly addictive and have the potential to push a person toward dependence from the first dose itself. Moreover, opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone interfere with the brain’s neurotransmitters and release intense feelings of well-being.

Seek supervision before popping prescription drugs

Julie Worley, an assistant professor of nursing at Rush University in Chicago says that patients who doctor shop are often addicted to painkillers or looking to get drugs they can sell. They go to multiple physicians in search of prescription medications, often narcotic painkillers, antianxiety drugs, such as Xanax, or medications to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Another study published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery examined the medical and pharmacy records of 130 patients in the age group 18 to 64 who sought treatment at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2011. All of the patients, who suffered from single orthopedic injuries, such as broken legs, ankles and arms, looked for painkiller prescriptions for three months before admission and six months after discharge.

If you know someone who is battling with prescription drug abuse, encourage him or her to seek professional help immediately. The Arizona Prescription Abuse Helpline can assist in finding the finest prescription drug abuse treatment clinic in Arizona. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-692-3563 or chat online with our experts to know about the top prescription abuse treatment centers in Arizona.

Read the other articles of the series “Pill to kill:”

Part 1: Overprescribing painkillers creates a vicious cycle of addiction

Part 2: Painkillers just one part of overall pain management strategy

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