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Doctor shopping: What does it mean, and why is it illegal in Georgia?

Patients — especially those with complex conditions and chronic illnesses — are always told that they should find a doctor that makes them feel comfortable and heard. That isn’t always easy to do, and sometimes a patient has to bounce around a bit from doctor to doctor until they find the right fit for their needs.

So what’s wrong with “doctor shopping,” then? Nothing, really, as long as you make sure that every doctor you see is aware of all of the prescriptions you have from any other physicians — including those you may only have seen once.

Specifically, Georgia law makes it a felony to withhold information from your doctor about any controlled substance you may have obtained “of a similar therapeutic use in a concurrent time period” from another doctor. In other words, you need to be clear with any physician you see about all of your prescriptions, but especially regarding muscle relaxants, painkillers, anti-anxiety medications and other, similarly Scheduled drugs.

The intent of the law is to keep people from obtaining multiple prescriptions for the same ailment in excess of their needs. Patients who are seeking opioids, for example, have been known to see multiple doctors for alleged back pain to obtain various prescriptions for Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin and other opiate-based drugs in order to abuse them.

Physicians also now have a tool that can help them identify such patients. The state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program makes it increasingly difficult for patients to hide a prescription — and much easier for those who do to get caught.

Not every case of suspected “doctor shopping” is valid, however. Patients may not realize that a drug they were given by their rheumatologist, for example, has the same therapeutic use as one they were given by their primary care doctor — but they can still end up in trouble. If you’re accused of doctor shopping for drugs, don’t try to handle the situation on your own. Get an experienced defense attorney to help protect your rights and your future.

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