No, doctor shopping isn’t the process of picking a doctor based on your insurance. While selecting a doctor is a time-consuming and tedious process, it’s not illegal. Doctor shopping, on the other hand, is very illegal. Today we’re sharing what you should know about doctor shopping, including the legal repercussions of getting caught and the signs to look out for in a loved one.
What Is Doctor Shopping?
Doctor shopping is defined as obtaining controlled substances from multiple healthcare practitioners (doctors) without the prescriber’s knowledge of other prescriptions. In other words, a person who doctor shops will go to multiple doctors asking for prescriptions without telling them about their existing prescriptions. Doctor shopping is a common tactic used by people addicted to prescription drugs to obtain as many of the substances as possible.
These types of patients manipulate the system to get more drugs than is safe to take, which is illegal. What usually happens is that these individuals start with a legitimate prescription that eventually runs out. When that does, if they’re hooked on the drug, they may visit multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions.
Addicts may lie about their symptoms, claim they lost their previous prescriptions, or commit other forms of deception to acquire more drugs. Substances that are most involved in doctor shopping include narcotics like Vicodin, Valium, and Oxycontin.
In addition to being addicted to a drug, a person might also doctor shop to sell the drugs and make money. Prescription medication is in high demand, and after a steady increase in the overall national opioid dispensing rate starting in 2006, the total number of prescriptions dispensed skyrocketed in 2012 to more than 225 million at a rate of 81.3 prescriptions per 100 people.1
Considering this, it’s not surprising that an estimated 26.4 to 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide.2 Doctor shopping is another means for dealers to illegally get more drugs like opioids to sell to their buyers.
How You Get Caught Doctor Shopping & What Happens If You Do
Some patients who “doctor shop” don’t realize they’re breaking the law. While they may admit it’s a dishonest practice or they’re “bending the rules,” they don’t realize that doctor shopping is against federal law and can have serious consequences if caught.
While specific laws about doctor shopping vary by state, the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act of 1932 and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1970 mention that it’s illegal for anyone to obtain, or attempt to obtain, a narcotic drug by deceit, misrepresentation, fraud, or concealment of facts.3
Additional laws in 23 states also specify that information patients provide to a doctor during the act of doctor shopping is not protected under the standard doctor-patient privilege and can therefore be used as evidence in court. So, what happens if you get caught doctor shopping?
Since doctor shopping is against federal law, a person who gets caught doctor shopping will be charged with committing a felony. As a result, they may be charged with a multi-thousand dollar fine or prison time. Because doctor shopping and addiction are often linked, law enforcement officials or the court systems may opt to offer a “diversion program” or a court-mandated rehab program.
Diversion programs allow the individual to attend an inpatient rehab or similar program instead of serving prison time. However, this option is only available to first-time offenders. In most cases, punishment includes incarceration and fines. The severity of the sentence varies by the state, the person’s criminal history, the scope of the crime, and anything else that may pertain to their case.
Signs of Doctor Shopping
Doctor shopping is usually a clear indication of drug abuse or addiction, so it’s helpful for you to recognize the signs if you suspect that your loved one is using drugs. Some common signs of doctor shopping to look out for include:
- Numerous empty bottles in their room or home
- Stashing prescription drugs around the house or in the medicine cabinet
- Combining medications with other drugs or alcohol
- Faking illnesses often
- Constantly scheduling or going to doctor appointments
- Complaining about medications not working (a sign of increased physical tolerance)
- Requesting stronger versions or higher doses of their medications
- Lying to loved ones about their whereabouts or their drug use
If you recognize any of these signs, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Heartland recovery center for help. We offer residential as well as detox and substance-specific care for both illicit and prescription drugs. We can help you or your loved one regain their sobriety.
Help for Addiction at Banyan Heartland
While movies and TV shows would like us to believe that people with addictions are always abusing street drugs or living on the streets, millions of Americans are addicted to prescription medications and are high functioning enough to show no signs. The team of specialists at our Gilman, IL, Banyan rehab has worked with countless patients who have developed prescription drug addictions.
If you or a loved one is addicted to substances like opioids, benzos, or others, you can trust that our team will treat you with respect, care, and professionalism. For more information about our Illinois addiction treatment and detox services, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763.
- CDC – US Opioid Dispensing Rate Map
- National Institute on Drug Abuse - America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
- CDC – Doctor Shopping Laws