As a doctor, you want to help your patients. You trust them to tell you the truth about their symptoms and you make the best decisions you can for them. A patient dealing with chronic pain may need to use painkillers, for instance, as may someone who has been through major surgery.
One issue you need to be aware of, though, is that overprescribing — especially when it comes to painkillers — is common. It can lead to arrest, jail time and significant fines. You have to walk a thin line. You do not want to deny any of your patients the medications that they really need, but you also do not want to be accused of fueling addiction or prescribing extra medications to those who are abusing them.
Though overprescribing can happen with many different drugs, America is in the middle of what is often called an opioid epidemic. These medications are highly addictive, and many people who start taking them for real reasons — like the aforementioned recovery after surgery — become addicted and keep using them at elevated levels or long after they need them.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called this a public health emergency back in 2017. Recent information from the HHS notes that more than 70,000 people died from overdoses in 2019, that more than 1.6 million people have use disorders and that opioid use often leads to heroin use.
If you’re facing allegations
It’s clear that the government takes this seriously, and you should as well. If you find yourself facing allegations of overprescribing, be sure you fully understand your legal options for protecting yourself and your career.