The use and abuse of prescription drugs is becoming a growing problem for many medical practices. Nationally, prescription drug overdoses are surpassing motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths among people between the ages of 25 and 64. This growing problem is causing physicians to reevaluate how they identify and handle patients who are seeking drugs and abusing prescription medications.
In order to identify and address drug-seeking behavior a physician should take the following steps:
- Obtain the patient’s pertinent medical history and conduct a thorough medical examination, identifying and documenting objective signs and symptoms of pain.
- Be cautious if a patient does not want a physical exam but merely comes to your office asking for medication. New patients who specifically request narcotics should be treated carefully and observed for drug-seeking behavior.
- Document the patient’s source of pain in the chart, and before issuing a prescription for narcotic pain relievers document and try non-narcotic medication and/or physical therapy.
- If you are going to prescribe narcotic medication document the informed consent regarding that medication and consider utilizing a treatment agreement with the patient, which includes a procedure for discharging the patient if the treatment procedure is not followed.
- Schedule follow-up appointment with the patient after prescribing narcotic medications and document the outcomes of the treatment and the rationale for any medication changes, particularly any changes that increase the dosage of the medication.
- If you suspect that a patient is abusing prescription medication address the issue as soon as possible and consider non-narcotic options for treating the patient’s condition.
The abuse of prescription medications is a growing problem in our society, but it can often be identified and addressed by vigilant care and treatment by the patient’s physician, through the identification of potential drug-seeking behavior and utilizing non-narcotic alternatives for treatment.