Vanderbilt Surgeon Finds One in Five Of His Patients Is Pain Pill Shopping

On a per capita basis, Tennessee ranked no. 2 in the U.S. for prescription abuse in a 2013 study. Credit: Michael Chen via Flickr

On a per capita basis, Tennessee ranked no. 2 in the U.S. for prescription abuse in a 2013 study. Credit: Michael Chen via Flickr

An orthopedic surgeon at Vanderbilt has done a very personal study on the problem of doctor shopping. He found that 20 percent of his own patients were double-dipping on pain pills.

The only reasons Dr. Hassan Mir could figure this out is that Tennessee now uses a database to track prescriptions for high-powered pain medicine. So Mir looked at his patients for an entire year and found way more doctor shopping than he would have expected.

“Finding out that one out of every five patients that comes to my office is not only getting narcotics from our institution but also going and getting them from other providers, that was a pretty startling number to realize.”

The study was released at the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons meeting in New Orleans.

It also found that those patients who dropped out of high school were three times more likely to doctor shop.

Mir says knowing the numbers has led to some uncomfortable conversations about pain medication with his current patients.

Currently, Tennessee ranks as one of the top states in prescription pain pill abuse. There’s an effort in the legislature to repeal a law passed in 2001 known as the Intractable Pain Treatment Act. Among other changes, it created a legal “right” to have pain treated by narcotics.

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