Doctor shopping

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Doctor shopping is the practice of visiting multiple physicians to obtain multiple prescriptions for otherwise illegal drugs. It is a common practice of drug addicts and suppliers of drug addicts.[1] A doctor who for a price will write prescriptions without the formality of a medical exam or diagnosis is known as a "writer" or "writing doctor".[2]


A doctor shopper will visit multiple health care providers as a "new patient" or "visiting from out of town," and will exaggerate or feign medical problems to obtain prescriptive medications.[3]

Frequently involved in prescription fraud are narcotics, stimulants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers and other psychoactive substances manufactured for use in legitimate medical treatment. Law enforcement officers spend a significant amount of time investigating cases involving prescription fraud, many of which also involve insurance, Medicare or Medicaid fraud.[3]

Prescription drug diversion occurs by faking, forging or altering a prescription; obtaining bogus prescriptions from criminal medical practitioners; or buying drugs diverted from health care facilities by personnel. Pharmacy thefts are increasing nationwide to feed the growing demand for prescription drugs. The rising cost of prescription drugs has also enticed senior citizens to join in the diversion and sell their prescriptions.[3]

Doctor shopping is a kind of malingering with the specific goal of procuring prescription drugs. Malingering is underdiagnosed, often because of the physician's fear of making false accusations. Covert surveillance has indicated that as many as 20 % of pain clinic patients misrepresent the extent of their disability. The judgment of the morality of malingering is largely a matter of the observer and circumstances. Most people would regard the defraudment of an insurance company, through a false injury, as an antisocial act. In contrast, the malingering of a prisoner of war, who is attempting to manipulate his or her captors, would be seen by most compatriots as a skillful coping mechanism.[4]

Doctor shopping is associated with the ubiquitous medicalization of drug use as an alternative to criminalization and legalization.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tom Dalzell (2009), The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English (8th ed.), Routledge, p. 299 
  2. ^ Tom Dalzell (2009), "writing doctor", The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English, Routledge, pp. 1065–1066, ISBN 978-0-415-37182-7 
  3. ^ a b c Kären M. Hess; Christine Hess Orthmann (2010), "Other Challenges to the Criminal Investigator", Criminal Investigation (9th ed.), Delmar, p. 546 
  4. ^ Charles V. Ford (2008), "Factitious Disorders and Malingering", in Michael H. Ebert; Peter T. Loosen; Barry Nurcombe; et al., Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Psychiatry (2nd ed.), McGraw-Hill, ISBN 978-0-07-142292-5