An emergency department patient asks for a pain medication by name, saying he is allergic to other non-narcotic drugs. And the pain is so severe, the patient says, nothing else seems to work.
That scenario, usually a weekend occurrence, is among the red flags physicians should consider when facing one of the most pressing and continual healthcare issues: the doctor-shopping, drug-seeking patient, Scott Weiner, MD, MPH, FACEP, an emergency physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA, tells me.
Physicians have long tried to deal with the doctor-shopping phenomenon, often linked to patients seeking opioid analgesics, including morphine, oxycodone, and methadone, drugs associated with abuse.
Often, these patients go from physician to physician seeking drugs that can feed an addiction. But there have been few studies about patients who go to the Emergency Department for drugs once their doctors' offices are closed, or they are worried their personal docs may get suspicious.
For drug-seeking patients, overcrowded EDs may seem like easy targets because, in part, emergency physicians are dealing with so many matters that they may not be as attuned to potential manipulations.