13 Red Flags Your Pain Patient is a Drug Seeker

April 19, 2017

While prescription registries have made it easier to track down drug seekers, they are not foolproof. Here are red flags you should be looking out for.

As doctors, we know the complications the opioid epidemic can cause. We have all seen patients who were seeking drugs, whether we recognized it or not. And I would hazard a good guess that we've all fallen for prescribing controlled substances to a seeker at one point or another in our careers.

Doctors and other healthcare providers want to do our best for our patients. When they are in pain, we want to alleviate it. But, we are often conflicted when we are treating a patient in pain because so many tried to scam us in the past and we cannot honestly tell which ones are telling the truth or not.

One sad case that I saw was a patient in her 20s who came to me as a new patient with a recurrence of her Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She wept because she knew the chemotherapy would make her long hair fall out again. Needless to say, after weeks of trying to retrieve her records, I learned that she never had any kind of cancer, but rather a history of drug seeking behavior. No one would conceive of denying a patient with cancer pain medications.

Yet, who would expect any one to lie about having cancer?