People who take prescription painkillers are increasingly finding that their doctors want them to sign a contract related to their use. These doctor-patient painkiller contracts have a two-fold purpose. They are meant to protect the patient against possible complications that include abuse, addiction and overdose. It may also protect the doctor if patients do experience problems.
Opiate-based painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin are widely linked to cases of accidental death and cause many other problems. These medications are widely abused, highly visible on the street and lead to crimes such as assault, theft, prescription fraud, domestic violence and armed robbery.
Misusing opiates can quickly spiral into a habit. People become so compelled to keep taking these medications because of physical dependence. As a person’s tolerance builds, he or she will need to take more to achieve the desired effect. Continued and escalating use can quickly lead to opiate addiction. Opiate withdrawal can be a very nasty experience so many people do whatever they can to avoid it.
Doctors Can Drop Patients Who Violate Pain Med Agreements
Painkiller contracts are meant to prevent patients from taking too much of a medication, selling or sharing it or mixing it with other substances that can cause problems including opiate overdose. It may also ask patients to take their medication in the amount and at the dosage recommended. Violating the contract can result in a doctor dropping the patient from his or her practice.
In order to enforce the pain contract, many doctors make it an option for patients to take drug tests. They may also be asked to fill their prescription at only one pharmacy and to refuse opiates from any other medical practitioner.
The contracts are also called “opioid treatment agreements” and can be an excellent learning tool to educate patients about opiate dangers. Critics say these contracts are an invasion of privacy and break the trust between a doctor and patient.
Doctors May Target At-Risk Patients They Suspect Of Opiate Abuse
Many people take opiates without an issue. But some abuse the system and engage in “doctor shopping.” This is the practice of visiting multiple doctors or pain clinics to get large quantities of a drug.
Some doctors who request contracts target patients deemed to be “at risk” for opiate abuse. Perhaps they showed signs of abuse in the past. Or maybe they run out of their pain meds early. Others may make excuses about misplacing their pills. Patients with serious, chronic conditions may not be required to sign a contract.
Opiate abuse is rampant in our society, so this measure is meant to curb the problem. But, it’s only one small step toward solving the growing problem.