“Doctor Shopping” is a phrase that can be used in a variety of situations, but basically it is visiting multiple doctors in order to get prescription painkillers – typically opiates.  This is typically done in a short time period, such as multiple doctors in less than a week, or simply visiting doctors before your previous prescription expires.  It is called doctor shopping because the person who is doing so is literally “shopping” for doctors that will fulfill their need; the need for prescription narcotics. Doctor shopping IS NOT when a patient decides to change doctors or has several doctors for specific problems that all communicate together for treatment, or if a patient decides to get another opinion about a diagnosis. Using multiple doctors without a legitimate purpose, or with the intent solely to attain prescription drugs, is doctor shopping. Individuals who doctor shop are usually suffering from drug addiction. Doctor shopping causes the healthcare industry and legitimate patients suffer because costs increase and the medical community has to be stricter about patient care.

It is impossible to say there is one reason for doctor shopping.  One cause of increased prescription drug abuse, which leads to an increase in doctor shopping, may be due to an emphasis on modern medicine to relieve pain. This may have unknowingly led to narcotic pain relievers being more easily prescribed. Some people also view prescription drugs as a “safer” way to get high compared to street drugs, while others may become dependent or addicted when the medication is inappropriately prescribed, or after long-term use related to the treatment of a long-term illness or injury and then begin doctor shopping.

It can also be really hard for doctors to determine whether or not patients are suffering from genuine pain and not necessarily abusing their medication. A doctor has to distinguish patient tolerance, dependence, and addiction in order to know if a patient is trying to abuse the medication and this is hard to do although, doctors are getting better at noticing the signs. There also has been an increase of hospitals and doctors using statewide databases that record which people have been prescribed prescription narcotics so doctor shopping can’t happen anymore.

Utah consistently ranks in the top 10 states when it comes to prescription drug fraud and prescription drug overdoses.  This has led law enforcement in Utah to adopt certain techniques to fight this activity.  Utah Code §58-37-8 covers illegal activity when it comes to prescription drugs and doctor shopping in Utah.  While law enforcement officers are prohibited from accessing a person’s medical records – including prescriptions – without a warrant, they ask that doctors report patients the doctor suspects may be attempting to fraudulently obtain narcotic pain medication.  This can result in misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the circumstances.

The sad reality is that anyone can be accused of doctor shopping in Utah when they are completely innocent of that charge.  The vast majority of people visit doctors for genuine purposes, and tend to trust what they are told, and prescribed, by the doctor.  However, if you visit multiple doctors, maybe include a dentist appointment, and get prescriptions from each one for completely legitimate reasons, you may find yourself under investigation for doctor shopping.

Being charged with, and/or convicted of, a drug crime can have a significant impact on your career, your family, and your fundamental rights.  If you find yourself facing an investigation, or have already been charged, for doctor shopping in Utah, you need an experienced attorney on your side.  The attorneys at Hepworth & Associates have the experience you need and can help you protect your rights.  Call us today to schedule a consultation.