You may not realize that you could face arrest for visiting multiple physicians in order to get prescriptions for opioid drugs and other scheduled medications. This practice, known colloquially as "doctor shopping," can land you in jail here in Virginia.
If you were arrested on charges of doctor shopping, your life could change markedly. We'll explore the issue some more in this blog entry.
Why it's a problem
Doctor shopping is definitely a problem, not just in our state but all over the United States. It facilitates the problem of addiction in communities all over the country.
But doctor shopping is also a problem on the individual level, as the addicts who obtain the drugs this way are at a higher risk of overdosing from the pills. When non-addicts go doctor shopping, they typically do it in order to make money. They then sell the drugs to addicts in their communities.
How the problem can start
Addiction can sneak up on a person. Often, they are legitimately prescribed a medication to treat a health problem. Especially in people who have addictive personalities, this alone can be enough to kickstart a lifetime of addiction.
Every day, more than two million people in the United States abuse opioid drugs. In a single calendar year, doctors wrote 227 million prescriptions for opiates. It's quite easy to understand why we have a problem.
The laws regarding doctor shopping
Here in Virginia, state statute 18.2-258.1 forbids anyone from "[o]btaining drugs, procuring administration of controlled substances, etc., by fraud, deceit or forgery."
There are also federal laws that govern this practice, i.e., the Uniform Narcotic Drug act of 1932 and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Violating any of these laws can get you felony charges that could lead to your incarceration for many years.
Alternative sentencing might be a possibility
Some jurisdictions allow those convicted of doctor shopping to enter diversion programs as an alternative to prison. The courts give defendants the option of seeking treatment, either in-patient or as an out-patient in intensive treatment programs. It should be noted that the courts usually only offer these options to first-time, non-violent offenders.
Kicking an addiction is hard and can be scary. But it is nowhere near as scary as going to prison. If you are facing charges of doctor shopping here in Virginia, your criminal defense attorney can petition the court to allow you to enter a treatment program as opposed to getting convicted of a drug felony.