Pain is a very real problem for the many people who daily endure chronic and acute symptoms. Seeking out pain medications to treat this pain and be able to maintain daily activities is not necessarily a bad thing. However, drug seeking behavior is a term often used to describe the manipulative and tell-tale signs of drug abuse, which is dangerous.
What Does Drug Seeking Behavior Mean?
Commonly, doctors and health care providers must work to understand when a person is seeking medication for pain relief due to an authentic need or if they are in situations where they may have developed a dependency. Both situations require help, though the type of help needed is very different.
The term drug seeking behavior refers to a person who is reporting symptoms of pain or discomfort as a specific goal of obtaining a prescription for pain medications. Generally, these drug seeking patients are in need of these pain medications to satisfy their dependency on them, although it’s possible they also are experiencing chronic pain that could use medication support. Often the drugs they are seeking are for themselves, however it could be that they have plans to sell them as well.
Medical providers must be able to recognize the risks of drug seeking behavior. At the same time, it is essential to avoid accusing those truly in need of pain medication of seeking drugs.
What Are the Signs of Drug Seeking Behavior?
Examples of drug seeking behavior aren’t always easy to spot. However, here are a few indications that may warrant further investigation before providing a prescription medication, like an opioid analgesic, to a person.
One of the most common indications that a person may be a drug seeker is when he or she visits your office for the first time with the goal to obtain pain medications. For example, instead of turning to a local provider, they seek out medical care in a town that is 20 to 30 minutes away. More so, their initial visit is about pain medications rather than a diagnosis of their condition and treatment options outside of pain medication.
A patient who has seen numerous doctors for the same condition (or related conditions) may also be seeking drugs. If this type of event is occurring in a short period of time, that is more suspicious and may fit the description of ‘Doctor Shopping’, a practice of trying medical providers until you find one that gives you what you want. Getting a second opinion about medical problems is not a bad thing, though. The key is how many doctors they have visited and what the goal of each appointment is. Further, if a patient is using multiple pharmacies or emergency departments for medications, that can also be an indication of concern.
Unwillingness to Use Other Treatments
Most pain medications have side effects. As a result, most people are willing to look for a cure for their injury or disease or treatment outside of just taking pills. If a person refuses to do this, this can also be an indication of seeking drugs.
Symptoms Themselves Seem Exaggerated
The pain may be very real to them, but some patients may exaggerate just how severe the pain is to receive prescriptions. If a person walks into an office just fine but describes the pain that is so severe it is debilitating, this could indicate an exaggeration.
What to Do When You Suspect Drug Seeking Behavior?
It’s essential to avoid accusing a person of this behavior if you do not have any valid proof of it. Doctors will often encourage other treatments and not offer pain medications as an option. A person who refuses these other options may need to seek out addiction treatment instead.
It’s also important to look at their history and to judge from their past experiences what has happened to put them in this position. For example, if a person has chronic, long-term pain, it is likely due to an older injury or illness. Chronic pain may warrant medications to treat it, but it is very common for a person with this type of pain to be accused of seeking drugs.
In these situations, a look back at a person’s medical history can give a doctor more information about what is happening and why. With so many people becoming addicted to pain medications through no real fault of their own, it is important to provide your patient with the best level of care possible.
When They Don’t Think They Have a Problem
There will be situations where a doctor feels they are obligated to confront a person they see as being addicted. This can be very difficult to do but becomes necessary in situations where the person is facing a life-threatening addiction.
- Explain how common it is for misuse to occur, it often begins unintentionally and without fault. If they do not believe they have an addiction or dependency, cite specific signs that concern you.
- Provide access to solutions for pain medication dependency, such as counseling support.
- Tell the patient there are other methods of pain management that you are confident can help improve their quality of life. Point them in the direction of that care.
A Person in Recovery
Often, people in recovery will opt not to use any medication unless absolutely necessary. Keeping a distance between yourself and any temptation is wise, but may be uncomfortable. If you are a person who has a history of prescription drug abuse and you opt to use a pain medication, be sure to follow your prescription closely and not to exploit it. A sponsor should keep close supervision of your use. Even if your injury is real and the pain is quite evident, the use of drugs to minimize that pain can create a relapse risk. In this situation, work to recognize old habits. Be adamant about finding non-prescription treatment options from your doctor when you do need help with the pain.
What Drugs Do People Seek in This Manner?
A study in the National Institutes of Health found that people typically request opioids and benzodiazepines for pain relief when they have an addition. These are typical substance abuse drugs because they have the highest addiction risk to them. This can include drugs such as morphine, codeine, fentanyl and oxycodone.
Additionally, some individuals will request drugs that work as stimulants or have hallucinogenic effects. Euphoria and sedation effects are sometimes sought after, as well. This occurs in drugs such as dexamphetamine and methylphenidate. In some cases, anabolic steroids are also sought.
Getting Help for Drug Addiction
A pill seeker or not, if you are facing drug addiction that is impacting your quality of life, it is time to take action to reverse it. Contact FHE Health and speak to our compassionate counselors who can provide you with help in overcoming your pain pill addiction. Call 833-596-3502 for immediate help and guidance and learn how our programs can help you take the next step.