Doctor-shopping for prescriptions in Tennessee can get you one to six years in jail if you try to do it under TennCare, the state-run Medicaid insurance program. A new state law makes it a crime for TennCare enrollees to fail to disclose a similar prescription obtained within the past month. As well as reducing crime and its associated costs, the new law could have an added benefit: People suffering from prescription drug addiction might decide to avoid the risk of jail time and instead apply for state-funded or private drug rehab.
Although TennCare could prosecute people for selling drugs, until now soliciting fake prescriptions hasnt been illegal in Tennessee, and theres been no easy way to stop the practice. People not currently enrolled in TennCare cannot be charged for doctor shopping under the new law, but state lawmakers are working on a bill that would apply to everyone. And the state’s Controlled Substance Database, in which pharmacists record every controlled substance purchased whether it is through TennCare or not, will help catch them. The database identifies drug abusers, doctors who over-prescribe and pharmacists who over-dispense.
In addition to the health risks of drug addiction and abuse, TennCare patients who doctor shop often receive unnecessary medical exams and unnecessary medications, all paid for by taxpayers. Most doctor-shopping involves controlled substances drugs such as opiate pain relievers that easily lead to abuse, addiction and the need for drug rehab.
Toothaches, back pain, migraine headaches people fake all kinds of illnesses to try to get narcotics from doctors and emergency rooms. Some people have gone so far as to prick their finger to bloody their urine sample to convince doctors of kidney stone attacks. Emergency room physicians are seeing an increase in the number of youth who have been taking these drugs. Vicodin, Lortab and other hydrocodone products, along with Percocet, OxyContin and other oxycodone products, and benzodiazepines and codeine products are the most abused prescription drugs and are the major problems for many seeking drug rehab.
One former TennCare recipient who sold and traded prescription painkillers with other TennCare enrollees said prescription drugs have replaced methamphetamines as the most popular drugs. Hes been off drugs for two years now, having completed a successful drug rehab program, but many of the people he used to associate with are still using, and others are dead. He says hes glad hes not up there in that funeral home.