What Is Double Doctoring?

Get the facts on this drug-seeking behavior

Doctor writing a prescription
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What exactly is double doctoring? The phrase double doctoring, which is also known as doctor shopping, refers to the deliberate use of more than one physician in order to obtain prescriptions for a greater amount of medications than would be prescribed by a single physician. Usually, a patient will be prescribed a drug that's necessary for the legitimate treatment of their current medical condition.

Some patients will then actively seek out other doctors to obtain more of the same medication, often by faking or exaggerating their symptoms.

Typically, patients engage in double doctoring for the following reasons:

  • obtain large amounts of medications they have become addicted to, such as opioid (narcotic) pain medications (like Oxycontin, Percocet or Vicodin)
  • maintain their addiction to painkillers
  • re-sell medications in order to obtain money to buy other drugs or support another behavioral addiction
  • re-use the drugs in another form, for example, crushing stimulant drugs (like Adderall) prescribed for ADD) to sell as or mix with street amphetamines

Doctor shopping is also the act of seeking a doctor that's well-known, typically by word of mouth, for being "generous" with medication types and doses. This technique has become more popular with the rise of electronic patient tracking, which helps prevent double prescriptions.

The Dangers of Doctor Shopping

Due to the ongoing devastation of the opioid epidemic — with increasing rates of misuse, abuse, dependence, addiction and overdose from prescription painkillers and heroin —  regulatory authorities have been cracking down on the process of doctor shopping. Some U.S. states have even criminalized the practice.

At the very least, most U.S. states have created a database that doctors and pharmacists can log in to if they want to check up on a patient who they suspect is a bit too eager for narcotic painkillers. Called prescription drug monitoring programs, these systems are designed to help health care providers identify doctor shoppers. Sadly, only about half of doctors take the time to use them, according to a Johns Hopkins University study. 

They also can help identify those physicians who doll out dangerous meds too casually. Increasingly, state medical licensing boards are gaining access to the programs and investigating the heaviest prescribers in their state. In recent years, doctors have also undergone education and training about the dangers of prescribing unneeded medication. 

The Possible Downside of Cracking Down

Unfortunately, some experts say that the crackdown on doctor shopping has contributed to the current heroin epidemic sweeping our country — heroin use has increased 63 percent in 11 years, according to U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As prescription pain meds become more difficult to obtain (and therefore more costly), many addicts have turned to heroin as a more available and less-expensive option. 

Looking for more information on the dangers of prescription pain medications? You might be interesting in the following articles: 

Sources: John Hopkins University, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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