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What’s doctor shopping, and why is it illegal?

On Behalf of | Oct 27, 2022 | Drug Charges

You have a right to choose your own doctor – and the right to change providers when you’re dissatisfied, so what’s the big deal about “doctor shopping,” anyhow?

Well, the term means something a little different to law enforcement than just being particular about your medical providers.

Doctor shopping is about intentional deception

Someone is said to be doctor shopping when they intentionally go from medical provider to medical provider in order to obtain medication that they don’t need in the first place or quantities of drugs that they shouldn’t have.

Both federal and state laws now make it a crime to purposefully withhold information from a prescriber about your condition, your other providers, the medication you already have and any other information that could be misleading.

This is largely in response to the opioid epidemic that has affected much of the nation and the prevalence of pill mills that abused what used to be a fairly unregulated system. Today, Maryland’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program helps spot – and stop – doctor shopping fairly early.

You might be suspected of doctor shopping for numerous reasons, but some of the common signs of a problem include:

  • Asking a new doctor for a very specific medication and dosage
  • Frequently requesting increases in your dosage or quantity of pills
  • Traveling to see a doctor that is far from your home or in a different state
  • Seeing several doctors in rapid succession for the same ailment
  • Claiming that your prescription is lost or stolen
  • Offering to pay cash for appointments and prescriptions instead of using insurance

Because of the backlash caused by a few disreputable doctors who were happy to trade pills or prescriptions for cash, many doctors are hypersensitive to anything that might signal doctor shopping from a patient. They’re afraid of the potential consequences to their own future – not just how addiction might affect their patients. For that reason alone, it’s easier than ever to get into trouble over prescription medication abuse.

If you’ve been charged with doctor shopping or another drug crime, make no mistake: The situation is serious. Learning more about your potential defenses is essential.